By Zaakiyah Gabier
The High Court in Pretoria dismissed an application yesterday to the naming of child victims, witnesses and offenders after they turn 18. The case was initially brought forward by lawyers of Zephany Nurse and later supported by the Centre for Child Law (CCL), Childline, Nicro and Media Monitoring Africa.
On Tuesday, ruled that the anonymity protection afforded to children under section 154 (3) did not extend to such children once they turned 18. The case was launched in the wake of the Zephany Nurse trial, as intense media scrutiny was placed on the teenager, who identity has been mostly protected from the public.
CCL obtained a court order preventing the media from revealing her identity, when the media threatened to publish her name once she turned 18 in April 2015. This was pending the outcome of their application to extend section 154’s protection to child victims and to offenders, witnesses and victims even after they had turned 18.
In response to yesterday’s judgement, CCL director Ann Skelton said the organisations would apply for leave to appeal against the ruling.
Discussing the implications of the ruling, William Bird, the director of Media Monitoring Africa expressed his disappointment,
“There were three things that we were looking for, as the law is silent on victims of a crime. The Criminal Procedure Act speaks about criminals names not being mentioned in the media and we feel the same rule should be extended to victims of a crime. The second thing we were looking to get clarity on was when in fact criminal proceedings start do they start the moment that the criminal case is opened or only during court proceedings, and the third issue is the one we are most disappointed by which the protection extending to children once they have turned 18.”
During the Eugene Terblanche murder case, one of the accused was under 18 and the court and media went to great lengths to make sure the child at that time was not named or identified. Because he turned 18, on the day of sentencing the media mentioned his name, Bird explained.
Media Monitoring Africa along with Centre for Child Law (CCL), Childline and Nicro, is looking to lodge an appeal within the stipulated term to get clarity in the law and to make a difference in this situation.
Given the argument about victims, witnesses and offenders of crimes being named and identified in the media before they turn 18, there is also concern over the releasing of pictures of criminals or victims and if it will be incorporated in the application.
“We work with a lot of young people and these things can upset kids and young people and that it can lead to further humiliation, teasing and secondary trauma especially if they are victims of something. But there are no rules against it. There are cases that when children are in a vulnerable circumstances, then it will be illegal to name or identify them,” he said,.
Media houses are unethical about how they choose to portray images of children, victims or criminals. We do a lot of work with media houses and they are very open to understanding the law and ethics and making sure they do not overstep ethical boundaries but reporting on children especially is one of the most difficult areas in journalism. You may think you are helping a child but you could be doing something that would lead to further humiliation.” VOC