Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards the Sowetan and The Star a GLAD1 for publishing articles that go an extra mile to protect the identities of vulnerable children affected by crime and abuse.

The Sowetan has consistently shown their commitment to promoting the rights and best interests of children in their coverage. Five of their recently published articles illustrate this.

The first article from the Sowetan, “Boys genitals cut off” (12/04/2016, p.2) by Pertunia Mafokwane is about a 12-year-old boy whose genitals were cut off allegedly by neighbors. In this article, the identity of the child who had his genitals cut off was protected and so was that of his grandmother who is a source in the story.

Like the aforementioned article, “Teen shot in private parts” (Sowetan,12/04/2016, p.8) by Thulani Mbele also protects the identity of a 15 year old boy whose genitals were shot during a service delivery protest in Orange Farm. Furthermore, a photograph of the boy with his face blocked was published alongside the article, this shows that the journalist made an effort to protect the boy’s identity by not showing his face.

The third article, “Teen assaulted for rape of child (4)” (Sowetan, 06/03/2016, p.2) by Xolani Dlamini continues the sensitive reporting as witnessed in other articles. The report is about a teenager who was caught in the act raping a four-year-old girl and was attacked by residents. The child is not identified and the article goes further to say “The child’s mother’s identity cannot be revealed to protect the toddler”.

Similarly, “Raped boys psychologically scarred” (Sowetan, 05/04/2016, p.2) by Ntwaagae Seleka also goes an extra mile to protect the identity of children who were abused. The article is about 11 boys who were kidnapped and raped and as a result are still “faced with serious traumatic challenges.” The journalist adequately protected the identities of the boys, thereby their privacy and dignity.

Lastly, “Underage killer must rot in jail” (08/04/2016, p.7) by Xolani Dlamini, also followed suit in protecting the identities of children who are vulnerable. This time, the Sowetan showed that they are as serious about protecting the rights of children who are victims as they are about those who are alleged perpetrators. The article protects the identity of a 16 year old learner who is accused of murdering a 17-year-old fellow pupil on school premises.

The Star, like the Sowetan, also shone light on the importance of protecting the identities of vulnerable children. In their article, “Bank manager accused of sex with stepdaughter” (The Star, 12/04/2016, p.3), the journalist, Angelique Serrao, reveals the details of the trial of a bank manager who allegedly raped his stepdaughter. Serrao, however did not identify the child. She also did not reveal the name of the accused step father “in order to protect the identity of the child.”

In all the articles the identities of the children were adequately protected. In this way, the journalists adhered to Section 154(3) of the Criminal procedures Act 51 of 1977 which provides that, “No person shall publish whatever information that reveals the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years or of a witnesss ata a criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years”.  Notably, these articles also minimsed the potential harm the children might be exposed to with their names made public.

MMA congratulates both the Sowetan and The Star for their efforts in reporting on rape and crime issues involving children in a cautious and sensitive manner.

By Girlie Sibanda

1. 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”