Giving children a voice in the media is a key advocacy goal for Media Monitoring Africa (MMA). That’s why it wasn’t hard to select the article “Flag-bearers thrilled to be part of it all” (The Star, 12/07/2010, p.7) for a Glad. The article interviewed four children who offered their services as flag-bearers during the World Cup final.

The children were portrayed in a positive light and spoke of their excitement and understandable anxiety. “I know this is going to be historic for me, but I’m going to be on TV,” one of the children was quoted as saying. “I told my friends that I would be on the pitch, and they were happy for me. But I’m nervous now and I’m sweating,” explained another.

Giving children a voice in the media should be commended as it gives them a sense of empowerment when they speak about issues affecting them and a sense of pride when they see themselves portrayed positively.

This is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 12 and 13) which states that “ a child who is capable of forming his or her own views [has] the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child” and that a child has the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”

MMA’s guidelines for journalists also state that “by providing children with opportunities to speak for themselves – about their hopes and fears, their achievements, and the impact of adult behaviour on their lives – media professionals can remind the public of children’s rights.”

However a report published by MMA in 2009, called “Children’s Views Not in the News”, revealed that “children are significantly under-represented in the media – with only 8.4% of stories monitored dealing with children and their issues. Although this is a slight increase since 2003, given that children account for between 37 and 40% of South Africa’s population (Stats SA Mid Term Review 2008) it is clear that children’s issues are still sidelined.”

The challenge therefore, for all media professionals, is to heed the call to make their publications and programmes more representative of children and their views.

MMA congratulates The Star for taking a step in the right direction.