MMA cautions the media on identifying a child who survived the Stellenbosch estate attack

Posted: 29 January 2015 | News - Media Release | Categories: Children, Media Freedom and Performance

Several news media organisations ran with the story of a family who were allegedly killed in their golf estate home in Stellenbosch. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) calls out the media (including those that have already identified the child) to refrain from publishing the name and picture of the 16-year-old-girl who survived the brutal attack or any other information that might lead to her identity being revealed.

MMA understands that this is a high profile story but what it grapples with regarding the coverage is whether the girl’s name and pictures being widely and extensively used in the coverage of the story is necessary. There are three reasons for MMA’s position:

Firstly, the child by virtue of being a victim of a brutal attack and “fighting for her life” deserves to be protected. Given that some media have been releasing the name of the hospital she has been admitted to, we believe that this makes the child more vulnerable to re-victimisation and further puts her safety in jeopardy. This begs the question of what is the purpose for identifying the girl in the media and going to an extent of releasing information that might lead to her.

MMA believes that there is no journalistic need to identify the girl, nor a striking public need to know her identity let alone the hospital from which she is receiving medical care.

Furthermore, MMA believes that the media have a professional obligation to examine the vulnerability of individuals they write stories about. To meticulously weigh the consequences of their coverage on them and to keep at the back of their minds, the fundamental ethical principles of minimising harm and acting in their best interests.

Secondly, MMA is aware that some media solicited images of the child from various platforms including the social network, Facebook. Which prompts us to question where and from whom they sought the permission to use and publish these pictures? It is unfair that the victim was not given a choice to decide on whether she wants to be identified in the media or not.

In any case it would be insensitive for the media to seek consent from her at this stage due to her critical condition as well as her state of trauma. The continued use of these pictures infringe on the child’s right to privacy.

Thirdly, aside from the ethical obligations, the media’s coverage has sadly exposed the media’s total disregard of the law. Not only is indentifying the child unethical as it does not minimise the potential harm that the child might be subjected to. It is also a contravention of Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which protects children who are who are accused of crime or are witnesses at criminal proceedings.The child is a witness to a criminal event and is a potential witness at a criminal proceeding and therefore this warranted her identity to be protected.

MMA would like to call on news media organisations to pull back on using the name and photographs of the child or any other information that might lead to the identity of the child being revealed.

For More information please contact:

Kgalalelo Morwe, Editor: Children’s Project – Tel 011 788 1278, E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

William Bird, Director, MMA – Tel: 011 788 1278, E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)