Тhe media should be more cautious when reporting on violence against children
Belgrade, 20 November 2012 – A report on four month monitoring of selected Serbian media has been presented today at the Round Table “The Media and Violence at School – What We should Know When Reporting on Children”, organized by the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) and UNICEF.
The monitoring was carried out from 15 July to 10 November 2012, and covered articles and photographs about violence against and among children published in the national daily newspapers Politika, Danas, Blic, Pres, Vecernje novosti, Kurir and Alo, as well as TV reports on the nation-wide public service broadcaster RTS (Serbian Radio & Television), the nation-wide commercial TV stations B92 and Prva TV, and Belgrade’s local station Studio B TV.
The survey showed that the majority of leading media did respect the basic ethical rules when reporting on children, particularly on child victims of violence, but that jeopardizing the children’s right to privacy and protection of their identity was present.
Violation of ethics was less present in the output of the TV stations, since they usually did not take the risk of reporting on concrete cases where children were victims of violence. As regards the print media, although cases of direct disclosure of a child’s identity were infrequent, the codices were violated by publishing photographs and data which indirectly made a child victim identifiable.
Of a total of 1,380 articles about children, almost every fourth article was about violence against children, while topics most present in the media concerned violence against children in general, closely followed by violence at school and domestic violence.
UNICEF Area Representative in Serbia Judita Reichenberg emphasized that greater empathy among journalists would certainly reduce the possibility of further violence against children following the publication of sensationalistic headlines, photographs or reports which humiliated or criminalized a child for the sake of a “good story”.
The participants in the Round Table agreed that children, particularly victims or perpetrators of violence, should be protected in media reports, and that it was necessary to respect the established professional rules. However, they highlighted the existence of numerous dilemmas about the interpretation of “the best interests of the child”. It was concluded that each individual case should be considered separately. It was recommended to launch a discussion on the protection of children and their rights in the new media in coming period.
The Round Table was held on International Children’s Day at the UNS Press Centre in Belgrade, and brought together editors and journalists from leading Serbian media, representatives of journalists’ and media associations, regulatory authorities, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and independent state authorities.
At the conclusion of the Round Table, the annual UNICEF prizes for ethical and professional media reporting on children and their rights were awarded.
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