Media Release: Statement on the identification of Mpumalanga Official accused of rape

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29 September, 2020

STATEMENT ON THE IDENTIFICATION OF MPUMALANGA OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF RAPE

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the Centre for Child Law are deeply concerned at the level of
carelessness being displayed by some media outlets and political parties in the coverage of the case
involving a “top Mpumalanga ANC official” who is accused of rape. We note that identifying this
official indirectly identifies the children involved. Any media or party that chooses to do this is not
only exposing the children to secondary trauma, but is acting unethically and illegally.

By identifying the official, the media flouts Section 154 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act which was
itself the subject of a Constitutional Court challenge. The amended section which is set to be
reviewed by Parliament, reads: “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information
which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused person under the age of eighteen years or of
a witness or of a victim at or in criminal proceedings who is under the age of eighteen years:
Provided that the presiding judge or judicial officer may authorise the publication of so much of such
information as he may deem fit if the publication thereof would in his opinion be just and equitable
and in the interest of any person.

Additionally, Section 8.3 of the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online
Media is flouted when identification occurs. The Section states, “[The media shall] not identify
children who have been victims of abuse or exploitation, or who have been charged with or
convicted of a crime, without the consent of their legal guardians (or a similarly responsible adult)
and the child (taking into consideration the evolving capacity of the child), a public interest is evident
and it is in the best interests of the child.”

Further and in the case of broadcast media, Section 11.7 of the Broadcasting Complaints
Commission of South Africa is violated whenever the identity of the official is revealed. The Section
states, “The identity of rape victims and other victims of sexual violence must not be divulged in any
broadcast, whether as part of news or not, without the prior valid consent of the victim concerned.”
We note that in the case of the children concerned, even if informed consent was granted by the
care giver or guardian, that it would still be a violation of the Act).
Identifying children who are victims of sexual abuse, or any abuse for that matter exposes them to
harm including victimisation, and/or further trauma that might come as a result of being identified in
the media.

We should also draw attention to the fact that while some media are not naming the official and the
children involved, they have given other details that could lead to the identification of the official
and children. This is also unethical. We advise that details such as the portfolios that this official
served and when he served in them should be omitted from the articles.
We ask that all those media that have such details that identify or could lead to identification of the
children, withdraw such information from their online articles.

We note that some media may have included the name of the accused, but commend them for swift
action in seeking to rectify their error. MMA and the Centre for Child Law would like to recognise
those media that have taken clear positive steps to not identify the perpetrator and children thus
acting in the best interests of the children.
We implore the media to sufficiently protect the children by cautiously reporting this story and to
promote the children’s best interests as dictated by Section 28.2 of the Bill of Rights of the South
African Constitution.

We note that both the ANC and the DA initially named the accused and gave details of the crime
leading to the identification of the children as well. We call on these parties to immediately
withdraw their official statements to offer an apology and ensure that going forward not only do
they prevent such an unconsidered response, but that they also avail their resources to ensuring
that the children concerned are being appropriately cared for and supported.

All rights-respecting members of the public are “gatvol” of the pandemic scale of violence against
children and child abuse – and appropriately so. In our efforts to combat and prevent these
destructive and revolting crimes, we must always ensure that we have empathy and respect the
rights of those most directly impacted, the victims and the survivors. A failure to do so ensures a
level of complicity in such crimes that undermines all efforts to prevent them.

For more information on this, contact;
Karabo Ozah
Director
Centre for Child Law
karabo.ozah@up.ac.za

Lister Namumba
Program Manager – Monitoring, Research and
Analysis

Media Monitoring Africa
listerr@mma.org.za

                                 

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