Victim indirectly identified.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned about the reporting from Daily News on a story that involves a girl who was reportedly raped. Daily News has failed to protect the identity of the victim and therefore MMA gives the publication MAD.[1]

The article titled “Man alleged to have killed woman and raped her teen relatives in dock”(Daily News, 13/01/2023) reports on a 15-years-old child who was allegedly raped by a 36-year-old man. The man is currently undergoing a psychiatric observation at hospital reportedly raped another teenager. Both girls are reportedly related to the deceased woman and the man who is awaiting trial raped the girls on several occasions.

In the story, the journalist identifies the victim’s relative whom the suspect murdered, therefore indirectly identifying the 15-year-old child. MMA finds identifying children who are involved in crime related stories is particularly problematic, unethical and is highly irresponsible reporting by journalists. By doing so, journalists and media put children at risk of being harmed, especially when they are potential witnesses at criminal proceedings.

Indirectly identifying the child contravenes Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in case 871/2017 (Centre for Child Law and Others vs Media24 Limited and Others) to be read as follows, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a victim or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.” [2]

Furthermore, Daily News also violated its own Press Code in which the publication commits to protecting children. Section 35.3 through to 5.7 of the Independent Media Press Code states, “Whenever the identity of a child is disclosed, whether pictorially or in print – The statutory restrictions on the naming or identification of children shall be observed and adhered to. The interests of the privacy and the reputation of the child shall be considered and, where necessary, protected. The permission of the parent or guardian of any child shall be sought in all cases where the identity of the child is to be disclosed. Even if the parent or guardian consents to disclosure of the identity of a child, Independent Online shall exercise a cautious discretion, if it may be harmful to the child to publish the identity of the child.”[3]

Identifying this child potentially subjects her to harm such as victimisation, retribution etc. Therefore, identifying her was not in her best interest especially as the article mentions that both her and the now 18-year-old other victim are related to the deceased woman.

In addition to indirectly identifying the victim, MMA is concerned about the journalist providing certain details when reporting the ordeal the child suffered. Details about how the rape occurred including what exactly was used to rape the children are unnecessary. MMA argues the value of this information to the story and worries that such details might cause potential further trauma to the child and others as they read the story in the media.

While we appreciate the effort to inform the public about the rape that occurred. MMA is kindly requesting that Daily News withdraws the identity of the victim’s deceased relative. Instead, Daily News should use a pseudonym to protect the identity of the victim. In addition to withdrawing the identity, Daily News needs to provide an explanation to its readers as to why the decision to withhold the identities was taken.

Written By Musa Rikhotso

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka and Lister Namumba

[1] A MAD is given to media who irresponsibly report on children.

[2] See Section 154 (3) of the criminal procedure Act 51 of 1997