Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) acknowledges The New Age’s effort of highlighting the challenges that children are imbued with on a daily basis. However, MMA is even more concerned about the ethical challenges faced by the newspaper when trying to report on these societal problems. One of the ethical challenges identified by MMA is the failure to reduce harm by protecting the children affected by these predicaments. A case in point and the reason for our MAD1 selection is a story entitled “No school for twins” (The New Age, 01/03/2013. pg.11). The story named and photographed twin boys who were kicked out of school because of their skin condition, Xeroderma pigmentosum.
The journalist explains that the twin boys were expelled from school because their skin condition “made parents ‘uncomfortable.’” The article is also accompanied by a picture that demonstrates the extent of the boys’ condition, which allegedly “affects the eyes and skin exposed to the sun.”
MMA holds that the identification of the child victims in the story can lead to their further discrimination either by their peers and their peers’ parents as it is already demonstrated in the story. MMA feels that The New Age, could have used pseudonyms to protect the children’s identities. Child monitors2 concur with the use of pseudonyms. The monitors said, “to make the story better they would use fake names (but at the end of the article, they would write “not their real names” in brackets) to protect the identity of the children.”
The New Age also did not minimise potential harm when they chose to publish a picture of the children with the caption “Not Wanted”. Considering that the children are already victims of discrimination, The New Age could have made an effort to ensure that they protect the children from further prejudice. They could have used a less revealing picture or as suggested by child monitors, they could have ensured that the picture was at least blurred to protect the boys.
While it is commendable for The New Age to show concern regarding the challenges that children are faced with, MMA believes that reporting on issues that affect children should be done so within the limits of basic journalism ethics.
1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs”↩
2.Media Monitors from Parkhurst Primary School: Siyabonga Silandu, Kimberly Masanzu, Nelisa Nxumalo, Atlegang Melato, Mbali Ndlovu and Lonwabo Mflatelwa shared their views on the story↩