Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) commends Sowetan for handling a story about a crime of rape involving minors in a brilliant manner. The story, titled “Teen boy arrested for rape of 3 nieces”(26/03/2012, p. 5), is one to be GLAD1 about because it was reported in a way that protects the children from the stigma that comes with rape, protects their dignity and privacy and puts their best interests at heart.

The article is about three young girls, two of whom are aged four and six from Soweto in Gauteng, who had allegedly suffered rape at the hands of their teenage uncle. The publication protected the identities of the victims and perpetrator in both the article and the picture accompanying the story. All the close relatives sourced in the article were also not named to avoid indirect identification of the three girls and their uncle.

A picture of the girls shot from their backs accompanied the article. Only the girls’ backs could be seen in the photo, thus, ensuring that the children’s identities are not disclosed. The report also went an extra mile to explain that “The children and their parents cannot be named to protect their identities.”

A police spokesperson quoted in the article confirmed that the accused boy was arrested and expected to appear in court. This means that the identities of the child offender and the three young victims who are also witnesses to criminal proceedings were protected as stipulated by Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Thus, Sowetan is commended for upholding relevant children’s legislation including the Criminal Procedure Act, as indicated above, and Section 28 (2) of the Bill of Rights2 of the Constitution by putting best interests of children first as shown in their handling of the story.

MMA hopes that Sowetan will continue to practice such sterling reporting and influence other publications and journalists in general, to adhere to legislation and ethical policies in their reportage of children.

1. Media Monitoring Africa highlights cases of good and best practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as feedback on cases where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through poor and irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs
2. Section 28 (2) of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa states that the “the best interests of the child are paramount in all matters concerning the child.”