The theme of child protection can be explored by the media in various ways.

The New Age and The Star are on the MAD OAT spotlight for publishing articles that are examples of best practice and reporting during Child Protection Week. They are: “Child rapists often known to the victims” (The New Age, 02/06/2011 p.2) and “Pupils turn the tide with tons of caring” (The Star, 27/05/2011 p.10)

Both articles highlighted aspects of child protection that are vital but not commonly covered in the media. While The Star reported on a charity project initiated and run by children for other children who are less fortunate, The New Age raised issues of child rape.

The article by The New Age accessed a report by UNICEF and the South African Human Rights Commission. It provided a range of statistics from the report which were informative and provided the reader with essential information on the violent crime of rape. The variety of sources interviewed in the article, such as representatives from Childline; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre; the Justice Department and a rape survivor; also provided the reader with a well-rounded perspective of the issue and a better understanding of the research.

The article went further and gave tips on how to recognise the behaviour of an abused child. These tips are often useful as they lead to informed and active readers.

When asked what they had learnt from the article, child monitors participating in Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)’s Children’s Monitoring Project (CMP) said:

• ”We have learned about the alarming rape statistics in this country and how little the justice system is doing for the rape victims. We also learnt that when children are raped their personality and attitudes change and are withdrawn and cannot concentrate in class. We learnt that every 3 minutes a child is raped and that most people don’t believe the victim and that the perpetrator is someone close to them (in most cases a bread winner) which is very upsetting”. Daryl (Grade 6) and Branden (Grade 7), from Park Senior Primary in Johannesburg.

Even though the subject of rape is complex and painful, these statements are proof of how The New Age managed to educate its readers, particularly children, on the subject.

The article by The Star was empowering in that children were seen as part of a solution to a problem affecting other children who don’t have homes or cannot afford to buy warm clothes for themselves. This was a refreshing article since MMA’s research findings reveal that in many instances when children appear in the media, they are seen as passive victims rather than active citizens.

MMA has also always encouraged the media to show boys and girls in diverse roles. In this story byThe Star, we see a group of boys doing charity work. This was another refreshing aspect of the article as it challenged gender-based sterotypes since boys are not usually associated with charitable activities, especially in the media. When they do appear in the media doing something positive, the stories are usually associated with competitive sports.

Another child media monitor Jessica Mampuya from Troyeville Primary who monitored the article said that “The story is well reported because it shows boys as positive active citizens”

As Sokoluhle Mbane a Grade 7 monitor also from Troyeville Primary proves, it is also encouraging for children to read positive things done by their peers. “The story makes me feel glad and excited because for a change children are represented in a good manner in a newspaper”.

These two articles by The Star and The New Age are examples of stories that encourage children and the public to care for the welfare of others, and journalism that challenges government on issues affecting children especially during Child Protection Week.

Both papers are commended for educating and equipping the public with information and ideas on how to protect children from harm and abuse and ultimately promote their well-being.