EDUCATION IS CRUCIAL FOR PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM ABUSE ON THE INTERNET - Serbian parliamentary public hearing
Belgrade, 17 November 2012 – In Serbia since 2010, 46 convictions have been handed down for crimes of abuse of minors in pornography on the Internet – it was stated today at a public hearing in the Serbian National Assembly, organized by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in partnership with UNICEF.
“Over the past three years, the Prosecutor's Office for High-Technological Crime initiated a total of 71 cases. In 2011, 40 cases resulted in 30 convictions, while in 2012, six convictions were handed down in 17 initiated cases,” said Special Prosecutor for High-Technological Crime Branko Stamenković, and recalled that abuse of children in pornography as a crime and a new form of threat, was mentioned in the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime of 2001.
Serbian National Assembly Speaker Nebojša Stefanović, who chairs the Assembly's Committee on the Rights of the Child, stated that the National Assembly would do everything possible to increase the level of legal protection of children from pornography and raise awareness of the hazards of new technologies.
“Our goal is to protect children from negative and inappropriate content and to preserve their safety. Children are especially at risk on the Internet, and it is therefore necessary to achieve the cooperation of all state authorities and a partnership between the public and private sectors in order to strengthen prevention and in particular education,” Stefanović said.
Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Rodoljub Šabić and Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrušić agreed that education is the most important measure for combating abuse of children on the Internet.
Šabić believes that preventing children from using the Internet is not a solution, since the Internet is a civilizing accomplishment. “The fact is that we should protect them from negative contents but the question is how. What I believe in is education. We can prevent abuses by making future generations aware of all the possible risks,” he said.
According to Petrušić, it is a problem which has to be tackled by well-thought-out and coordinated measures. “It is very important that we are aware of this problem. The solution is in education… and much more education,” she said, and warned that the Internet and virtual space were an area where children would be imbued with various negative contents.
Deputy Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child Tamara Lukšić Orlandić said that the Internet offers great risks and traps because, she explained, everything that happens in the virtual world has consequences for the real world. Among necessary measures, Lukšić Orlandić mentioned supervision by parents and adults who have a key role in this chain, but also education of children from the earliest age.
UNICEF Deputy Representative Lesley Miller warned that adolescents are at the highest risk of on-line sexual contact with an individual through social networking sites. “Abusive images of children on-line can remain in circulation forever and there is almost no limit on how often or by whom they can be viewed or passed on,” she said, and highlighted the legal instruments contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. “All these instruments contain specific definitions of offences and provide a framework to help us fight for the creation of a protective environment for children,” said Lesley Miller.
Other speakers at the meeting were representatives of Internet providers – Ivana Vranjican from Telenor and Jelena Stojanovic from Telekom, who presented the concrete measures that their companies had been undertaking to prevent the exposure of children to inappropriate content and materials, as well as to limit access to and exchange of pornographic content by their users.
Ivana Stevanović, director of the Child Rights Centre, spoke about a the draft of an Action Plan for the prevention and protection of children from exploitation in pornography through abuse of information and communication technologies, which had been prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Plan needed to be adopted as soon as possible.The meeting concluded that it is necessary:
- to amend the relevant existing laws to protect children from exploitation through abuse of information and communication technologies,
- to develop a strategy for the protection of children from abuses on the Internet in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development,
- to intensify educational work with children, parents and teachers regarding risks and preventive measures on the Internet,
- to establish cooperation between all relevant authorities and partnership between the public and private sectors.