UNICEF in Montenegro supports ethical reporting on children
Serving the public interest without compromising the rights of children
In Montenegro, accurately representing the views of children and young people in media reportage has been a challenge. Rather than help focus public attention and garner support on issues affecting the lives and rights of children, a lack of attention to ethical reporting on children leads to miscommunication about those rights and, in fact, perpetuate a neglect of those rights.
It was against this backdrop that UNICEF Montenegro and Montenegro’s Agency for Electronic Media recently organized a training session for Montenegrin journalists who regularly cover topics related to violence against children and other sensitive issues. During the three-day training workshop, conducted as part of the UNICEF-supported, national media literacy campaign, ‘Let’s Choose What We Watch,’ participating journalists became more familiar with the child-rights-based issues involved.
One of the participants was Nina Bošković, a correspondent with the national TV Vijesti, who worked with professional trainers from the Thomson Reuters Foundation to produce reports about children’s rights. “The training gave me new insights into covering topics focused on children,” she said. “It made me think about issues that are important to children and how to include them in a story. It made me realize that children can be good contributors.” UNICEF also sees including children’s voices in stories about them as a priority.
UNICEF Representative in Montenegro, Osama Khogali, said that media “have a potential to be the champions of child rights by helping to improve the situation of children through ethical reporting about various child rights issues. In other words, ethical reporters serve the public interest without compromising the rights of children.” “Being a child today is a different experience from what is used to be 30 years ago or more,” he added. “It is, therefore, important to listen to those who are going through that experience now to be able to support them effectively. For this reason, through the media literacy campaign, we are linking the media with the cadre of young volunteer reporters supported by UNICEF, as spokespersons on various child rights issues.”
[for more on the Young Reporters initiative, please click here.]
To be sure, it is not always an easy task for journalists to include the voices of children especially when it comes to sensitive stories.
Nina was unable to interview a parent of a child victim for her story. “I realized that I needed a contributor with real-life experience to talk about the issue. After all, this was the advice given by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, but in our case, it is very difficult to do so. The story came out well in the end. I took the advice of Reuters mentors and managed to get and analyze data from different institutions,” she said.
In her experience, people in Montenegro are not ready to tell their stories, even if provided with identity protection because they are afraid that their words could be used in the wrong context.
“I do not know where this fear comes from – it might arise from the country’s cultural background, or the lack of trust in the media, or it could be a matter of their personal preference,” she added. Chasing after sensational stories, the media in Montenegro sometimes neglect the interests of the child, when it should be their primary consideration. This, of course, does not help build the trust of people in media to share with them their hard life experiences.
“A key message I remember from the Thomson Reuters Foundation training is that we need to think how we or someone close to us would feel if this story was published,” she said.
For another participants, Nikolina Mašnić, a journalist working for the Mina news agency, the training was eye-opening.
"I learned some new methods to get the information I need. I also learned that it is crucial to enlighten the child rights issue without putting children at risk. We need to talk about the problem and protect children from any negative experiences due to our story,” she said.
Milan Sekulović, a journalist with the daily newspaper Dan, found the training to be a great reminder of media ethics which can sometimes slip into the background due to the daily pressures in the newsroom.
"I am much more cautious now when it comes to reporting on children,” said Sekulović. “I would never publish the name or a photo of a child victim or perpetrator of violence or any other details that could harm him/her. At the same time, I do my best to write about all those issues that are relevant to children in Montenegro including taboo ones like violence. The training made me aware of how little their voices are present in the media and so, I try to include their views more in stories about them.”
Similar impressions came from Marija Radulović .
“I learned that I always need to make sure to not put at risk physical, mental, social and emotional development of the child. I also learned not to include the visuals of the child’s home, family, school or other details that could identify them and endanger their privacy,” said the journalist from the public service TVCG .
The experience of working with Reuters journalists as mentors on stories about violence against children was seen as valuable for every participant. There was hope expressed for such opportunities to be organized every year.