The Supreme Court on Friday faulted Citizen TV, Nation Media Group (NMG) and Standard Group over their coverage involving seven minors who were charged with arson in 2012.
In a ruling delivered by a five-judge bench led by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, the three media houses were faulted for providing the identity of the seven former students of a high school in Muranga County in their news coverage.
Mwilu and her colleagues Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola, and William Ouko expressed that the media house could have covered the story without identifying the students.
The Friday ruling was made after the former students (now adults) lamented that the media infringed on their right to privacy during the coverage of the stories.
Deputy Chief justice Philomena Mwilu hearing responses to petitions at the Supreme court on September 1, 2022
“The 1st to 4th respondents would have achieved the same goal of keeping the public informed by running the story without the children’s names, photographs or identities,” read the judgement in part.
“The combined respondents’ actions were in violation of Articles 50(8), Article 31 and Article 53(2) of the Constitution. Consequently, the appellants proved a violation of the minors’ constitutional rights.”
However, no damages will be paid by the media house to the seven.
It was noted that the suit was filed for the advancement of constitutional justice and in public interest with both teams ordered to cater for their legal fees.
Consequently, the Court issued guidelines regarding similar cases. It was determined that the privacy of minors in cases has to be protected in Court cases.
Names of parents, schools, and residents should not be revealed either directly or indirectly during the coverage.
“It is the duty of the presiding officer to ensure that only those permitted by Section 93(4) of the Children Act, 2022 are allowed in the courtroom where proceedings involving a child are held.
“Code names, pseudo names, or initials of their names must be used to describe children in all children’s cases,” the judgement read in part.
The case involving the media house reached the Supreme Court after the High Court in 2017 and the Court of Appeal in 2022 ruled in favour of the media houses.
In the past rulings, the Courts agreed with the arguments of the media that they covered the story being that it was a matter of public interest.
The front view of the Supreme Court of Kenya building in Nairobi.