Poor media reporting on a bullying incident goes viral

Posted: 19 February 2015 | News - Media Release | Categories: Children, Media Freedom and Performance

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is appalled by the media coverage of the Vukuzakhe High School, Kwa-Zulu Natal bullying incident. A video that was allegedly leaked on social media has gone viral and in the process garnered attention from mainstream media. The video in question shows a pupil being brutally assaulted by two fellow pupils.  

While some media have chosen not to publish the video because “it involves minors”, others have chosen to publish the video, in so doing, disregarding the rights and welfare of the parties involved.

The child is a victim of abuse and by publishing the video, the media have clearly subjected her to secondary trauma. While it was bad enough that the girl had to deal with the video going viral online, it is horrible that she must now also come in terms with the video being published in mainstream news media.

This type of reporting has done very little, if nothing at all to minimise harm on the child. The perpetrators too deserved protection as they are still minors and need to be protected from negative reprisals- including additional physical or psychological harm, or to lifelong abuse, discrimination or rejection by their local communities.

Therefore, the publishing of this video by several media houses propels us to believe that the media did not weigh the consequences (intended or otherwise) for the children involved.

MMA understands the importance of the story and fully supports that it is reported. However, we struggle to understand how publishing the video aids the public in understanding the societal problem of bullying.

MMA noticed that in some media, the video seems to be the main focus and little actual reporting was done on the incident. Focusing primarily on the sensational part does a disservice to understanding the issue at hand as it misses the opportunity for nuanced and informative reporting.

Without nuanced information, media coverage implies that bullying has no causes, impacts, solutions, let alone context. This not only robs the public of understanding bullying but it further demeans the victim.