The Star‘s article, “2 Injured as dad fires at principal” (03/03/09, p. 2)1, is one to get mad about. In naming the child witnesses, who were also victims, it contravenes the Criminal Procedure Act, and fails to protect the children’s best interests.

The crime story is about a father who allegedly shot at the principal of the school his child was attending, while pupils were present, following an argument with. One pupil was reported as being hit by a stray bullet, before witnessing the man pick up a gun and leave.

The story is not in the best interest of the children because the journalist named and revealed the ages of both the children who were witnesses to the traumatic incident, including the injured child. This contravenes Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act No. 51 of 1977 which states:

“No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of eighteen years or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of eighteen years…”

Furthermore, the article gave the injured child’s statement of exactly what she saw happen, which shows that she was interviewed by the reporter.

Given the child’s experience, there is potential the child could be further traumatised by retelling the story to the reporter.

The story is dramatised by stating that another child fainted by witnessing the incident, which shows that the incident was disturbing to the witness.

It is not clear if a child psychologist or counselor was present during the interview, or if there will be any psychological treatment for the traumatised children.


Publishing the statement could be a hazard to the child’s safety for another reason as it is possible that the suspect could hurt the child for speaking about what she saw.

It is not clear why the same respect shown to the teacher, whose name is not revealed in accordance to his wishes, is not shown to the children. This does not fully consider the child’s ability to provide informed consent, given the child’s age and experience. The children are unlikely have the knowledge to ask for the necessary protection or have an understanding of the impact that publication of their details will have.

The headline and the image are satisfactory as both reflect what happened in the story.

The photographer, Matthews Baloyi, did well by not revealing the face of the child. However, the editorial decision of naming the child in the caption, as well as the article, goes against the efforts that the photographer made in protecting the child’s identity.

Overall, the story fails to safeguard children’s rights to privacy and protection, and in doing so contravenes both legal and ethical principles.

1 Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has concealed the names of the children to protect their identities.