Media houses have been criticised for the way they reported on the story of the father who allegedly poisoned his children and the effects the reporting has on the surviving children. The father allegedly gave his five children energy drinks laced with poison to drink and poisoned himself and the family dog.
George Kalu from Media Monitoring Africa, in a Press Code editorial opinion by the Daily Maverick, highlight how the media has seemingly failed to apply an ethical lens, by violating the privacy of the children.
THE MEDIA NEEDED TO PROTECT THE SURVIVING CHILDREN
Three children who were allegedly poisoned by their father died while one was critically ill in hospital. The other one survived as he did not consume the drink.
“Rightfully, we are all outraged, confused — and left with the question: What would possess a man to commit such a heinous act of violence against his own flesh and blood?
“Perhaps it is still too early to get to the bottom of what pushed this man to allegedly kill or attempt to kill his children as police are still investigating. What is clear is that the media needed to report on this story. But, at the same time, protect the two surviving children from further unnecessary harm that comes from the story being in the public domain,”said Kalu.
He further added that in reporting the story, some of South Africa’s most credible media got it wrong. Some media outlets considered it acceptable to name and identify both the children who died and the children who survived.
Furthermore, Kalu said the two surviving children are clearly being harmed by this decision. They not only have to deal with the trauma of the incident but are also having their privacy invaded.
MEDIA VIOLATED THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY OF CHILDREN INVOLVED
“Imagine being one of the children who survived, that your father is accused of killing your siblings. And this is now all in the public eye with your privacy completely disregarded. How is this in the best interest of the two siblings?”asked Kalu.
The following are examples of reports that violated the rights to privacy of the children involved:
- Media24 published the names and pictures of the three children who died, thereby indirectly identifying the two children who survived.
- The Star named the three children who died as well as the child who is in hospital.
- Like The Star, TimesLIVE named all three deceased children as well as the child admitted to hospital.
- Sunday World named all the family members and published a photograph of the mother in tears.
- The Citizen named the three deceased children.
- SABC News named all the children who died and revealed the family name.
- EWN on Twitter published the photographs and names of the children who died.
- eNCA named all the three deceased children and revealed their family name. The two children who survived were also named in the report.
Kalu mentioned that all the above-mentioned media have, in the past, shown exemplary reporting. Especially around violence against children, handling such stories with sensitivity, care and due regard for the best interest of the children involved. How and why did they get this one wrong?
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) would like to urge the media to adhere to the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media or, where applicable, their own internal editorial policies.