Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Saturday Citizen for using an image which includes a child to illustrate the Zimbabwean crisis there by exposing the child to potential harm. 

Residents under attack” (Saturday Citizen, 26/01/2019, p.10) is the headline of the article. The story mainly focuses on the violence the Zimbabwean citizens are facing at the hands of security forces. It is reported that Zimbabweans are protesting due to hikes in fuel prices. As a result of the protests, the country is reportedly experiencing a “nationwide security crackdown”. According to the story, security forces are arresting people and charging them of “disorderly conduct, looting and arson”. One person is reported to have been shot dead while others are being beaten. One man who was allegedly beaten by soldiers says in the article that he did not go to the hospital after his assault “as he feared being arrested as a suspected protester”. The security forces are reportedly “invading houses looking for looters”.

Among the other people accessed in the article is opposition activist, Ophias Mukucha of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The activist is interviewed on the violence he witnessed and his image is used to illustrate the article. In this photograph, Mukucha is sitting down with a child standing in what seems to be a doorway. There is no mention of the child in the caption but the article does mention that Mukucha is a father of five.

To begin, MMA is MAD about the fact that the image that includes a child is used when the story does not focus on the conditions of children in relation to the crisis. The only mention of children in the article is where Ophias Mukucha says that “their health is affected” when talking about how hard is it to support children to eat properly because of the high cost of living.

Furthermore, and more importantly, this child is exposed to potential harm as a result of being identified. The child, who has been associated with the opposition activist in the article might be targeted and harmed for retribution etc.

MMA argues that the article would still have had great impact had the child’s identity been withheld. We call upon Saturday Citizen to blur faces of children in pictures accompanying such stories so as to not subject the children to any kind of harm that might come as a result of being identified.

By Grace Obiang



[1] Poor journalism practice, where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage.