Media News South Africa

‘Election coverage snubs SA children' says MMA

South African children are vulnerable, forgotten and facing serious problems ranging from HIV/Aids to child abuse, lack of education opportunities, hunger and inadequate early childhood development, and more - and these issues are yet to be properly addressed by policy-makers. Our children have been once again given a cold shoulder by the media, yet it is an industry that is supposed to be advocating their rights. This is the view of the Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), expressed in their recent report on media election coverage.

“For these reasons [the problems they face], children are deserving of significant attention and consideration by government, political parties and the media. However, children as a direct topic of media's election coverage or as an indirect subject through coverage of related topics, have been an almost non-existent feature to date,” says the MMA report, compiled by Tanya Owen and released yesterday, 20 April 2009.

“The subject of children was placed together with the subject of child abuse as one broader topic due to knowledge gained through MMA's considerable experience in monitoring media's general coverage of children,” says the report.

Children's topics in recent media election have been rare and limited in scope and coverage amounted to only 0.1% - a far cry from the coverage given to the IEC and elections, party politics and political campaigning, which got 18,5%, 15% and 13,2% respectively - the media watchdog said, adding that reports on or regarding children are infrequent in SA media, and in African media in general.

“When children are the focus of reports, they are most likely to appear in stories around crime, as either victims or perpetrators, and very rarely become the primary focus of reports around public service delivery and poverty. Placing children and child abuse together facilitates measurement and comparison of any child focused items with other subjects forming the main topic of election coverage,” says the report.

SA is the world's second most unequal society after Brazil, and its children have been largely victimised by grinding poverty, which continues to affect at least 48% of SA's households. Statistics put child poverty at around 65.5%.

The MMA said that while it is possible that media and political parties could argue that until children become adults officially at the age of 18, and thereby become eligible to vote, significant attention need not be paid to this “topic” of children, it must be admitted that South African children are South African citizens, and their concerns still count.

“Under these conditions, media's attention to children in their election coverage is notable for its absence, and almost unforgivably so. Just as the lack of political party attention to women and gender issues is no excuse for media to disengage on these subjects, there is no justification for children to be ignored in election coverage. Media should be engaging political parties and audiences on the subject of children,” says the report.

About Issa Sikiti da Silva

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.
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