South Africa: Should SA Media Name Those Who Die of COVID-19?


A debate is currently happening among local journalists: Should South African media identify those who die from Covid-19? The same discussions have been taking place worldwide, with few clear protocols in place - and the ability of WhatsApp users to spread the identity of the deceased is complicating the issue.

As of 6 April, 11 people have been confirmed to have died of Covid-19 in South Africa.

At least seven of these have been publicly identified by local news outlets. In one case, that of a 45-year-old KwaZulu-Natal teacher, the individual was initially named in a press statement from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) - but an urgent message was sent to journalists some hours later from Sadtu requesting that the teacher's name not be published after a request from the family.

In these situations, journalists often fall back on "public interest" criteria: in this context, that the deceased should only be identified if they have lived to some degree in the public eye.

Yet only one of the South African cases thus far has involved someone with high-profile status: that of Dr Gita Ramjee, an internationally-renowned HIV researcher. Others who have been named by the media were...

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