Discrimination on any grounds is not only painful and humiliating for the victim but it also injures the community he or she is associated with. When discrimination is reported in the news it is important that the victim is protected, especially if they are a child.

Two articles by The Star“Boy’s 3-year racist hell” (09/10/2012, p.1) and “More racism accusations over pupils’ red string” (11/10/2012, p.2) should be applauded for sensitive reporting around acts of discrimination against a nine-year-old child. In the articles, the journalist Solly Maphumulo, explains in detail how the boy had endured verbal abuse at the hands of his teacher because of his race and religion.

Notably, The Star made deliberate efforts with regards to keeping personal details of the victim of abuse private; they did not use his name or those of his parents in both articles.

The two articles also clearly show the impact of discrimination on the life of the affected child. They demonstrate, through account given by the parents, the psychological consequences of verbal abuse on him.

In addition, both articles should be commended for showing how the community and particularly the boy and his parents joined forces to fight against the mistreatment of pupils at the school on the grounds of their religion or race.

Although it is good that The Star exposed these terrible acts of discrimination, it is important that the media, in this case specifically The Star, refrain from repeating derogatory words used by the perpetrators of abuse in their news reporting. In both articles, the journalist repeated the derogatory “C-Word” normally used to insult people of Indian decent. Writing such words may cause further harm to the child as well as other people who share the same culture or religion.

It is also imperative that The Star, as alluded to by Media Monitoring Africa’s child monitors1 and the editorial guidelines2, be cautious of revealing other details, especially in contexts were children have been abused, that might aid the public or those close to the victims to make out who they are. In this case, according to the monitors, the journalist wrongfully mentioned the name of the school the boy goes to as well as the grade he is in.

The media, when reporting on incidents or issues of discrimination, has a responsibility to inform and educate people about the impact of discrimination without violating the privacy or dignity of children involved; a practice that The Star and Solly Maphumulo got right.

1. Media Monitors from Parkhurst Primary School: Anoint Dube, Princess Mhlanga, Wyne Simango and Siyabonga Silandu shared their views on the story
2. Independent Newspapers Group endorses Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children. Amongst other things, they make clear that “the best interest of each child is to be protected over any other consideration”