Move to boost children's rights in the media

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa has embarked on measures to enhance the rights of children as enshrined under the country's constitution.
At a meeting of stakeholders at Gallagher Estate in Midrand Tuesday, delegates proposed a new media code for reporting on children.
The media, participants stressed, have a central role to play in raising public awareness on children's issues and welfare.
In the 10-point proposal, the participants underscored the need for a media code that would guide reporting or treatment of children related issues by the media.
It calls on the media to respect their social responsibility of raising public awareness on the rights of children.
According to the proposal, child rights journalists should be seen as media advisers and provide regular information about important children's issues.
The journalists should also seek to expose hazards of children's safety and security, including basic human rights -- food, clothing and housing - and all forms of exploitation.
The participants called for constructive dialogue with media companies to provide space for children's issues.
They urged the Media to play a leading role in advocating children's rights issues related to their safety, privacy, security, education, health, exploitation and social welfare.
Another recommendation deals with the quality of articles, stories, and photography which should "play a positive and active role in the evolution and promotion of children's rights and issues.
" The participants say such reports, articles or photographs should not demean children or patronise them on the basis of ethnicity, nationality race, gender, sexual preference, religion or mental or physical disability.
"Photographs should not depict children in comprising, sexual or degrading situations.
"Although the media have an obligation to report on all aspects of the real world, both positive and negative, in certain instances, they have to advocate the rights of children," the participants said.
"Children's Rights issues should have allocated space regularly.
"Photographs of children, where possible, must be obtained with the knowledge and consent of a responsible adult, parent, guardian or caregiver," they added.
The proposal also insists that reports on children "must not only be accurate and fair, but also sensitive to the vulnerability of children and without prejudice.
"While media should help to uncover cases of abuse and rape of children, their rights should not be violated and absolute right to privacy should be ensured," the participants enjoined.
The proposal said journalists should carefully consider the publication of any images or material, photography and reportage which could expose the child to further abuse from society.
They should also avoid the use of stereotypes to promote journalistic material.
Noting that reportage of violence, sex and abuse of children posed ethical challenges to journalists, it was recommended that "improved and sensitive coverage and consequences of sensational publication of children's issues should minimise harm to children.
" It was also suggested that children, where possible, should be given the rights of access to media to express themselves and provide space for the diverse, creative opinions of children themselves.
Journalists specialising in children's matters or embarking upon investigation into children's issues should acquaint themselves with the terms of national and international laws as they relate to children, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Care Act (1983) and the relevant sections of the South African Constitution Billboards, advertising and sponsorship, which target children should also have integrity and be subject to self- regulation, while images or products which depict unsafe situations or encourage children to engage in activities dangerous to them should be avoided.
The South African Constitution explicitly states that all children have the right to be protected from maltreatment, abuse, neglect and degradation.
If accepted, the proposals could eventually be formulated into law.

15 may 2001 23:08:00

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