The media have been accused of breaking the law in their coverage of Madonna’s adoption of a Malawian boy, writes Samuel Makaka.

The Blantyre Child Justice Court says the media broke the law by publishing particulars and details of the baby and his parents. The court also says the publication of the baby’s picture also went against the common practice of reporting about vulnerable children.

In an interview, Esmie Tembenu, Child Justice Magistrate said: “Section 10 of the adoption rules in Malawi stipulates as follows: ’All information about guardian and adopted child/baby must be confidential and not for public consumption.”

She said the laws of Malawi do not allow issues of vulnerable children to be public.

Tembenu said that the adoption story has generated a lot of media attention and this has led local and international journalists to forget the usual way of reporting such issues.

“Journalists in newspapers, radio or TV always withhold names of victimised juveniles and babies when reporting. They also cover faces of these children in the pictures. But in this case I don’t know what has happened.”

Commenting on the issue, Davidson Chirwa, Deputy Director of the Information Department who is also head of the Malawi News Agency, said: “Anything to do with the name Madonna attracts media attention, even her pets, because she is a high-profile public figure. As such journalists found it difficult not to cover as much issues surrounding the baby as possible including his particulars.”

Chirwa said he had never seen as much coverage given somebody as the boy David Banda received.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi said: “Madonna is a celebrity and anything around her is subject to public interest including her children. Baby David Banda is now the celeb’s adopted baby, therefore cannot avoid publicity.”