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Launch of a child-rights syllabus for journalism students in Turkey

© UNICEF video
Ankara University journalism students discuss a photo essay illustrating the lives of impoverished children as they learn about child rights from a newly launched syllabus.

By Guy Degen

In the run-up to 20 November 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about this landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – including progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.

ANKARA, Turkey, 12 November 2009 – Understanding child rights and how to produce stories about children in a responsible and ethical way is now part of the journalism curriculum at seven Turkish universities.

The child-rights syllabus recently introduced at these schools was commissioned by the UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and developed by the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. It was formally launched at a ceremony at Ankara University in time to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Journalism at its best can be the eyes and ears of children – voices in the promotion and protection of children and their rights," said UNICEF Regional Director Steven Allen. "By bringing young journalists into the picture on child rights at an early stage, we help to build those eyes, ears and voices for children's rights."

© UNICEF Turkey/ 2009/Ustun
UNICEF Regional Director Steven Allen signs bound copies of the child-rights syllabus at the launch of the syllabus in Ankara, Turkey.

A child-rights perspective

In a computer lab at Ankara University, journalism students Esma Kurtulu, Bijgu Begüm Orhan and Nuray Incel discussed a photo essay illustrating the lives of impoverished children. The students have elected to take a new course that uses the new syllabus to examine children’s rights and explore how to report stories from a child-rights perspective.

The syllabus covers human rights, interviewing skills, conflict, anonymity and identity protection for children and for sources.

"Children are individuals and, of course, they need some protection," said Ms. Orhan, 21. "If I have this awareness, I can do my job in a much better way without violating their rights.”

Opinion leaders of tomorrow

Besides overlooking child rights, the media often disregard the opinions of children in matters that affect them. The new syllabus aims to provide journalists with practical tools to approach stories with a child’s point of view in mind.

"For students of journalism, the syllabus is going to open a sector that they haven't really thought about,” said Prof. Noirin Hayes, one of the authors from the Dublin Institute of Technology. “It's our experience that people don't really think about children as rights holders, as individuals and as participants in society,"

This is a critical point, because today’s student journalists often go on to become society's future opinion leaders.

The child-rights syllabus is now available as an online resource, and universities from Romania, Macedonia, the UN-administered province of Kosovo, Azerbaijan and Georgia are also preparing to include it in their journalism courses.




6 November 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on the launch of a child-rights syllabus for journalism students in Ankara, Turkey
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