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The Media And Children's Rights Manual (2005)

A new edition of a booklet designed to help journalists monitor their government’s performance as signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is published this month.
The Media and Children’s Rights has been produced by the Bristol-based media ethics charity MediaWise on behalf of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF. The original edition, commissioned in 1999 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the UNCRC is in use in over 20 countries and has been translated into a dozen languages. It has shaped training programmes for journalists around the world, sponsored by UNICEF and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
The revised and expanded, pocket-sized edition, based on the practical experience of working journalists, includes story ideas drawn from issues raised by the UNCRC and checklists to ensure that media professionals acknowledge children rights in their working practices.
“Media professionals are well placed to keep children’s rights – and their abuse – on the news agenda, by scrutinising policies and legislation, and challenging those who fail to meet their commitments to children,” says Lynn Geldof, UNICEF Communication Advisor for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, introducing the handbook.
“It is designed to strengthen journalists’ understanding of children’s rights and to suggest how the issue can generate news stories and features for print and broadcast media,” says MediaWise Director Mike Jempson. “We hope they will find it useful in developing accurate and positive coverage of children everywhere.”
The handbook outlines two milestones for children’s rights since the first edition: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), signed up to by 191 member states of the United Nations, and A World Fit for Children, the declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2002 to provide criteria against which to measure the policies and achievements of governments and others concerned with the welfare of children.
It also contains International Federation of Journalists guidelines and over 60 useful international contacts for journalists seeking facts, figures, quotes and advice about children’s rights, including the website www.unicef.org/magic containing Media Activities and Good Idea by, with and for Children, which MediaWise helped to devise.

PDF-version (1.23 MB)
This publication includes a number of practical recommendations intended to make media and journalists more responsive and to encourage debate within media about the portrayal of children and their rights. Media professionals need to play a leading role in this debate or they will find that others grow impatient and seek to control them through regulations. Such regulations will not be effective in protecting children, but they will make it more difficult for good journalists to do their jobs.
Although there are no easy answers to complex issues or to ethical dilemmas, there are standards and benchmarks by which media can judge how they portray children in society. The need for journalistic training in reporting on the rights of children has never been greater, both at the entry point to journalism and in mid-career courses. Bad habits in the newsroom and the tyranny of deadlines, always a handicap to good reporting, can be overcome if journalists and programme-makers at all levels are exposed to good practice and information about the importance of children’s rights.
It is possible for journalists to depict children in a way that maintains their dignity, and avoid exploitation and victimisation. There are many examples of good journalism that act as a counterweight to media indifference and lack of awareness and that challenge myths. There is a need for media to identify good practice, to applaud high standards and to encourage improved coverage. (Aidan White - IFJ - January 2002)

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