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Journalism codes from around the world

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The following are extracts from The PressWise Trust's analysis of journalism codes of conduct. Full details of the codes can be found on the Trust's website.


Code of Honour of Austrian Press, Austrian Press Council (1983)

3 When dealing with the private sphere, the public interest for information and the interest of the individual and his/her close ones' privacy must be balanced. Reports of the 'false steps' of juveniles must not hinder or make more difficult their resocialization. In such cases the names must be shortened.

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Code of Ethics, Croatian Journalists' Association (1993)

16 A journalist is to protect a person's private life from unjustified or sensational exposure to the public. Special care and responsibility is needed in reporting about accidents, family tragedies, diseases, children and minors, or court proceedings, where the journalist must respect presumed innocence, integrity, dignity and feelings of all the persons involved. In political confrontations the journalist is to respect civil rights and freedoms of the participants, and make efforts to remain impartial.

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The Code of Ethics of the Estonian Press, Estonian Press Council (1998)

3.6 Minors shall be interviewed, as a general rule, only in the presence of or with the consent of the parent or guardian. Exceptions can be made to this rule if the interview is intended to protect the interests of the child or if the child is already under close public attention.

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German Press Council (1994)

Article 13

Reports on cases under criminal investigation or sub judice must be devoid of all preconceived opinion. Before and during such proceedings, therefore, the press shall avoid making any comment in the heading or body of a report which could be construed as partisan or prejudicial to the issue. An accused person must not be presented as a guilty party before legal judgement has been pronounced. Wherever possible in the case of minor offences committed by juveniles, names and identifying photographs should not be published out of consideration for the young persons' future. Court rulings should not be reported prior to their official announcement without sound legal justification.

Guideline 13.4

When reporting on juvenile crime and juvenile court proceedings, the press should exercise restraint out of consideration for the future of the young people concerned. This recommendation also applies to reports on juvenile victims of crime. As a general rule, there is no objection to the publication of photographs and names of missing young persons. These should only be published, however, with the agreement of the relevant authorities.

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Radio Telefis Eireann (RTÉ) Guidelines on Children in Broadcasting (reviewed annually)

Also adopted by the National Union of Journalists (Ireland)

1 The engagement of children for programmes

The involvement of children in RTÉ programme making requires special attention so as to provide for their protection and safety and to ensure that their attendance on programme activities does not seriously interfere with their school attendance nor reduce the time children would normally spend at home, rest or play. It is essential that the consent of parents or a guardian is obtained before a child takes part in a programme. If such an engagement involves attendance during school hours the school principal should be consulted generally and should have given permission for the absence from school involved. The following guidelines are intended to give effect to these considerations:

1.1 A child should be construed as a person under the age of 15 years.

1.2 The consent of a parent or guardian must be obtained before a child attends for any rehearsal or performance.

1.3 RTÉ shall appoint an adult (who could also be a parent or guardian or teacher) to chaperone children and supervise their welfare and discipline whilst on RTÉ's premises or on location.

1.4 If a child or other person still at school is required for rehearsal or performances during normal school hours the school principal should be consulted beforehand and permission for the absence obtained.

1.5 The use of a child of a very tender age is to be avoided except when this is essential in the context of the programme. The producer concerned shall be satisfied that the child will at all times be in the care of a parent or guardian.

1.6 As a general rule children should be present at RTÉ studios or on location during daylight hours only. Persons under 15 years of age should not normally be required to attend for rehearsal or performance between 9pm and 9am.

1.7 A child engaged for a part in a dramatic programme or film should not be required to attend for more than 10 hours on any day and provision should be made for adequate meal and rest breaks and a long break between the end of production on one day and the start of rehearsal or performance on a following day.

1.8 In the exceptional circumstances of location work outside the main RTÉ studios being involved the producer concerned must ensure that toilet and washing-up facilities are available and that there is adequate protection against bad weather.

1.9 Children should be kept under strict supervision at all times and they should not be permitted to leave the area in which their presence is required.

1.10 Children must not be permitted to take part in any dangerous or hazardous performance.

1.11 Except for a valid script requirement in a dramatic programme, a child should not be involved in any portrayal of any violence, family quarrel, strong or blasphemous language.

1.12 Only young persons of 15 years of age and upwards may be engaged on a fee basis. If desired, items such as book vouchers may be given to children and proper expenses allowed. Where a child has been engaged for a dramatic or entertainment programme or film then a fee may be paid to the parents or guardian of the child or to the establishment which coaches and provides the services of the child for the programme.

1.13 Children should not take part in a programme in which money or other prizes are given except that children participating in programmes for schools or children's programmes such as quizzes may be given gifts such as book vouchers and the like for taking part.

1.14 Director of Legal Affairs should be consulted in advance in regard to any formal contracting arrangements that may be deemed necessary in regard to the engagement of children.

1.15 The responsibility for ensuring that these regulations are observed rests with the Head of the Programme Department concerned.

2 Children in studio audiences

2.1 Children should attend at RTÉ's studios for children's programmes only, and except in any special circumstances approved by the Director of Programmes concerned, children should not be admitted into the audience for entertainment programmes or talk shows or other programmes being recorded or to be broadcast after 9pm. Tickets for such audiences should clearly indicate that children will not be admitted. Children attending as part of an audience for a children's programme should be accompanied to the RTÉ studio by a parent, teacher or other responsible adult.

2.2 Tickets for an audience involving children should preferably be distributed through schools, youth clubs and the like or at the request of parents or guardians. Tickets should normally not be issued on a casual basis to children.

2.3 Very young children and children in arms should not be admitted into a studio except where such attendance may be necessary for such as a kindergarten or child care programme and in such cases special welfare arrangements may be required.

2.4 No fee, gift or other consideration is given to members of a studio audience in respect of their attendance. In the case of children from a school or youth club or the like being invited to a studio audience and also to participate in the programme the producer may make reasonable transport arrangements for such groups.

3 Children and young persons in programmes and news

3.1 As a firm rule RTÉ should not publish in any programme or news bulletin the name, address, school attended or other close identification of any child or young person (under 17 years) appearing in court, including an appearance as a witness, except where any judge may have requested the media to do so.

3.2 Great care should always be exercised in interviewing any child in reference to any tragic or harrowing experience such as a bomb explosion, tragedy at sea, fire, domestic tragedy and the like. Children should not be interviewed to elicit views on private family matters or in matters more appropriate to adult discussion.

3.3 The portrayal in children's programmes of anti-social behaviour by children, eg, malicious or bullying behaviour towards other children or serious disregard for parental authority is to be avoided.

3.4 Special care should be exercised in the case of programmes likely to attract a young audience in regard to smoking, the taking of alcohol and any reference to the use of drugs so as not to promote the acceptability of these habits among young people.

3.5 Strict regulations are enforced by RTÉ regarding the portrayal of children in broadcast advertisements and are detailed in RTÉ's Code of Standards for Broadcast Advertising.

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Duties of Journalists, National Federation of the Italian Press and the National Council Order of Journalists (1993)

Children or frail people

A journalist should respect all principles contained in the ONU Convention, 1989, on the rights of children, and the rules confirmed by the Treviso Ethic Code (Carta di Treviso) to protect children, their characters and personalities, both as active protagonists and as a victims of a common law offence. Particularly:

a) a journalist should not publish names or anything else which might lead to the identification of children who are perpetrators or victims of common offences;

b) a journalist must resist pressure from adults in stories involving children and use his own judgement exclusively;

c) however, stories which are to the benefit of children should be published.

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Code of Ethics of the Lithuanian Journalists, Lithuanian Union of Journalists, Lithuanian Association of Journalists, Association of Publishers of Periodicals, Lithuanian Radio and Television Association, Lithuanian Radio and Television, Lithuanian Centre of Journalism (1996)

52 The journalist shall show particular respect to the rights of the children and adults with physical or mental incapacity.

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Ethical Code of Practice for the Press, Norwegian Press Association (1994)

4.8 As a general rule the identity of children should not be disclosed in reports on family disputes or cases under consideration by the child care authorities or by the courts.

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Syndicato de Periodistas del Paraguay

8 Journalists must safeguard the innocence of the accused until the courts have passed sentence. At the same time they should abstain from identifying victims of sexual crimes whatever their age or social condition without their consent. The same applies to minors that might have participated in a crime.

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Code of Professional Ethics, Journalists' Association of Peru (1980)

Art. 6: Acts against professional ethics are:

a) To attempt restriction against freedom of thought and expression;

b) To allow unawareness of human rights violations;

c) To allow unawareness of situations which endanger or threaten life and health;

d) To violate the right of privacy of persons;

e) To attempt restriction against the protection that family, the child, and the young deserve; and

f) Not to keep a professional secret or to use it for the benefit of others.

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Philippine Press Institute (1997)

III (5) We shall avoid at all times language, photographs, visuals and graphics that are racist, sexist, insensitive and disrespectful of men, women and children, the religious denominations, cultural communities, and gender and political preferences.

Guidelines on the Coverage of Crimes Against Women and Minors

Proposed by participants in the seminar/workshop on the coverage of violent crimes against women and minors, 3 to 5 December 1993, at the Development Academy of the Philippines, Tagaytay City.

1 Consent

Recognize the victims' right to decide whether to be identified or not.

i) Withhold the identity of the victim and suspect (until indictment).

ii) Make sure the consent given is free and informed consent.

Do not assume consent until expressly given.

• Determine if the victim is in the right frame of mind to give consent.

• Broadcast reporters/editors should take care that filming/reporting/recording of such crimes do not violate the above principle.

2 Images

Recognize the right to dignity of victims, especially in death.

i) Do not use photos of victims who are naked, scantily clad, or in otherwise degrading states.

ii) Do not photograph or use photos of minors as victims or suspects.

iii) Use graphics, line shots, other illustrations to visually supplement the reportage.

iv) Do not trivialize the reality of violent crimes with the use of humour, cartoons etc.

v) Do not place reports of violence next to pin-ups and other items which heighten their titillating value.

vi) Do not use photos or any visual depiction of confrontations between the victims, the victims' family, and the accused in police stations and other law enforcement agencies.

3 Reportage

Crimes of violence against women and children should be reported factually and seriously.

i) Reporters should not use words and phrases which tend to pass judgement on the victim and/or suspect, eg, prostitute, pretty, sexy, former dancer, sex maniac, drug addicts etc.

ii) Eliminate details/descriptions which tend to titillate readers/viewers and sensationalize the story or ridicule the victims.

iii) The general rule: do not use obscene, profane or vulgar terms in a story unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a strong, compelling reason to use them.

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Portuguese Syndicate of Journalists (1993)

7 The journalist has to guarantee the presumption of innocence until the case is finished. The journalist must not identify, directly or indirectly, the victims of sexual crimes or juvenile criminals nor must he/she humiliate people or aggravate their pain.

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Republic of Korea

Press Ethics Code (1986)

4 (3) Since the words 'group suicide' can be an inaccurate expression in case it involves children and other family members not willing to die, accurate expression shall be used depending on the incident. At no time should such incidents be reported in a way that caters to the public's curiosity, nor should they be beautified.

10 Children's newspapers or columns and advertisements on medicine for venereal diseases (1 June 1966)

On newspapers where advertisements or medicines for venereal disease are carried, no children's columns shall be used.

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Russian Federation

Congress of Russian Journalists (1994)

5 The journalist sustains the principle that any person is not guilty as far as the opposite has not been proved in court. In his communications he avoids mentioning the names of the relatives and friends of the persons found guilty or charged for committing a crime - excluding the circumstances when it is necessary to the objective presentation of the case. He also avoids mentioning the names of the victims of the crime and publishing that kind of material which leads to the identification of the victim. With the special strictness these norms should be observed when the journalistic communication may harm the interests of minors.

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Code of Journalists, Journalists of the Republic of Slovenia (1993)

8 A journalist protects the personality and privacy of a person against unjustified and sensationalistic revealing to the public. A journalist is especially tactful and considerate when reporting on accidents, tragic events in families, diseases, children and juvenile persons.

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Code for the Journalistic Profession, Federation of the Spanish Press (1993)

4 (d) Special attention shall be paid to the treatment of issues which concern children and youth. The right of privacy of minors shall be respected.

Statement on the Principles of the Catalan Journalism Profession, Catalan Journalists Association (1992)

11 To deal with special care all kind of news concerning children. There must be no identification when they appear as being victims (except in the case of murder), witness or accused in criminal prosecutions, especially in those cases of great social repercussion, such as sexual offences. Nor should the journalist identify, against their will, those related people or innocent relatives of persons accused or condemned in criminal trials.

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United Republic of Tanzania

Media Council of Tanzania

The rights of the child

Part three of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides basic rights under Articles 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24.

Tanzania is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child all of which obligate governments to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment.

Governments also have the obligation to protect children from engaging in work that constitutes a threat to their health, education or development and to regulate conditions of employment.

Although Tanzania ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 26 May 1991 it is however yet to legislate specific enactment into laws so that the rights contained in the Convention can be considered enforceable. As a result, the provisions of the Convention cannot be invoked in a court of law.

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United Kingdom

Broadcasting Standards Commission Guidelines on Children

32 Children's vulnerability must be a prime concern for broadcasters. They do not lose their rights to privacy because of the fame or notoriety of their parents or because of events in their schools. Care should be taken that a child's gullibility or trust is not abused. They should not be questioned about private family matters or asked for views on matters likely to be beyond their capacity to answer properly. Consent from parents or those in loco parentis should normally be obtained before interviewing children under 16 on matters of significance. Where consent has not been obtained or actually refused, any decision to go ahead can only be justified if the item is of overriding public interest and the child's appearance is absolutely necessary.

Similarly, children under 16 involved in police enquiries or court proceedings relating to sexual offences should not be identified or identifiable in news or other programmes.

The Independent Television Commission's Programme Code

This Code includes a section on family viewing, offence to good taste and decency, portrayal of violence and respect for human dignity. It can be read in full on the Independent Television Commission's website.

Radio Authority Programme Code 2 (1993)

Violence, sex, taste and decency, children and young people, appeals for donations, religion and other matters

1 Taste and decency and the portrayal of violence

1.4 Children and young persons

The Radio Authority believes that adult radio listeners have the right to enjoy material which would not be thought suitable for children. However, Licence Holders must be aware of circumstances such that large numbers of children and young persons might be expected to be listening. Adult material must not be broadcast at the times when a Licence Holder regularly directs his programmes at children and young persons by the inclusion of music, stories or speech items acknowledged to be specifically attractive to children and young people below the age of 18.

Adult programmes include drama where strong language or violent scenarios might occur, discussion or 'phone-in' programmes which cover explicit violent or sexual topics in a frank manner and musical items with violent or sexually explicit lyrics unless the programmes have educational aims.

3.5 Interviewing of children

All interviews with children (people aged 15 and below) require care. Children must not be interrogated to elicit views on private family matters nor asked for expressions of opinion on matters likely to be beyond their judgement.

Other matters affecting children are listed under 4.6 'Reports on young offenders' and 5.5 'Appearances by children in programmes'.

4.5 Reports on young offenders

Under the Children and Young Persons Acts 1933 and 1969, it may be an offence to publish the names or addresses of persons aged 17 or under who are involved in court proceedings, or to publish any information calculated to reveal their identity if the court so directs (see 5.2 'Contempt of court').

4.6 Children in sex cases

Radio reports should not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims or as witnesses or defendants.

In any report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -

1 The adult may be identified.

2 The term 'incest' where applicable should not be used.

3 The offences should be described as 'serious offences against young children' or similar appropriate wording.

4 The child should not be identified.

5 Care should be taken that nothing broadcast implies any relationship between the accused and the child.

4.7 Smoking and drinking

The editorial content of Licence Holders' programmes must not endorse smoking and drinking and these activities should not be mentioned unless the context or dramatic veracity requires it.

Tobacco and alcohol are social drugs whose consumption carries no particular stigma even though they can constitute a major health risk and may be as addictive as drugs which are less socially approved, or actually illegal.

Particular care is needed with programmes likely to be heard by children and young people. Programmes made specially for children should not normally contain any reference to smoking or drinking of alcohol unless an educational point is being made, or unless, very exceptionally, the dramatic context makes it absolutely essential.

4.8 Drug taking and solvent abuse

Drugs, drug addiction and their effect are valid subjects for radio programmes. However, no impression should be given that drugs are a desirable feature of British society, particularly in programmes of special appeal to children and young people. The same caution must be applied to solvent abuse (glue sniffing etc) and descriptions of such practices that could easily be imitated must be avoided.

5.5 Appearances by children in programmes

Performances by children under the upper limit of compulsory school age are controlled by Home Office regulations administered by Education Authorities. All such performances, apart from those appearances expressly exempted under the Children and Young Persons Acts, require a licence from the Education Authority responsible for the area in which the child lives. Parental consent alone is not enough (some special restrictions also apply to young people above school age but under 18 years).

The law on public performance by children is complex. Licence Holders should be familiar with the general regulations. Producers of entertainment programmes should be familiar with the main points that have to be borne in mind. Producers of news and current affairs programmes, or other programmes in which such appearances are a comparative rarity, should take advice when the use of a child is contemplated. Casual, phone-in contributions from children in their leisure time fall outside these requirements.

The purpose of the regulation is to ensure that a child's education, health, and general well-being are not harmed by employment as a public performer. There are detailed rules covering, for example, arrangements for tuition, the number of consecutive days and hours of work (varying according to the child's age), proper meal and rest breaks, and so on.

5.6 Protection of children from indecency

The Protection of Children Act 1978 is aimed at preventing the exploitation of children under 16 by pornographers. Some provisions in the Act, however, widen its scope and apply to radio programmes.

The Act does not define what is 'indecent'. However, the courts have said that, whilst something is indecent or obscene if it offends against recognized standards of propriety, it is the exclusive province of a jury to decide whether or not the matter is indecent or obscene. Because of this vague definition of 'indecency', it is not possible to lay down hard-and-fast rules about what is, or what is not, permissible. Where doubt exists Licence Holders should take legal advice.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Producers' Guidelines

Children and programmes

1 General

Children can be involved in programmes in a number of ways; as actors, interviewees, participants in or subjects of a programme and even, occasionally, as programme makers themselves. The use of children in programmes often requires handling with great care: it can be difficult for programme makers to strike a balance between competing interests - of the child, of the parent, and of the audience as a whole.

In the UK there are various laws designed to protect children. But wherever in the world the BBC operates, programme makers must have due regard for the welfare of children who take part in their programmes.

We should respect the interests of children as viewers and listeners of BBC programmes too, whether these programmes are aimed specifically at them, or at a general audience.

Consult the Taste and Decency, Violence, and Imitative and Anti Social Behaviour chapters of these guidelines, for advice on the BBC's policies on children's viewing and listening.

2 Consent

It will often be appropriate to seek the consent of parents or legal guardians before interviewing young children, or otherwise involving them in programmes, and the younger or more vulnerable the child, and the more sensitive the subject matter, the more likely it is that consent will be essential. If children are to take part in programme making during school hours it will normally be necessary to seek the consent of the school. Where consent has been refused, reference should be made to Head of Department before taking any decision to go ahead. This can normally be justified only if the item is of sufficient public importance and the child's appearance is absolutely necessary.

In the case of drama involving child performances, if the child is required during school hours the consent of the child's school is required. In law, Local Education Authorities license all child performances during school hours. Some education authorities make a very broad definition of what constitutes a performance.

3 Impact

Journalists and other programme makers should consider carefully the impact of the programme on a child involved in it - both in the way it is made, and any possible impact it may have when broadcast. This applies irrespective of whether we have secured parental consent. Children are often eager to help programme makers but may lack judgement about their own long term interests.

Programme makers may need to consult professionals and experts when dealing with children. BBC Children's Programmes have developed considerable expertise and support systems to protect children before, during and after the programme process and can offer advice in this area.

When dealing with dangerous or illegal activity among children, such as drug-taking or prostitution, it is often advisable for programme teams to be accompanied by an independent agency throughout their contact with the children.

4 Anonymity

When factual programmes feature children involved in illegal or anti-social activity identification may raise difficult ethical issues. There may be a public interest in identifying the children concerned, but the longer term interests of the child may argue for anonymity. Programme makers should refer up where they are in doubt about the balance of interest. Parental consent may not be a sufficient reason to identify a child if the child's long term future would be better served by anonymity.

When recording anti-social or criminal practices carried out by children with the intention of highlighting the practice rather than the individuals the general rule is that individual children will not be identified.

5 Interviewing techniques

5.1 Interviews with children need particular care. Children can be easily led in questioning and are often open to suggestion. Young children in particular may have difficulty in distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Programme makers should be careful of prompting children and should allow them to speak for themselves. Children should not be talked down to or patronized.

6 Laws affecting children

6.1 The identification of children involved in legal cases

There are special laws designed to protect children involved in legal cases.

Youth court proceedings

Youth courts deal with people accused of committing offences while under 18. Any matters leading to the identification in youth court proceedings of a witness, defendant or other party in those proceedings who is under 18 may not be revealed. The restrictions include the naming of schools and of addresses.

No picture of a person under 18 can be broadcast. Even a picture which doesn't show the child's face is prohibited. A child involved in criminal proceedings as a defendant (known as the 'accused'), a victim or a witness cannot be identified unless the court makes an order allowing identification.

In Scotland there are no youth courts - children are dealt with by the Children's Panel System. Any child involved in a hearing before the Children's Panel or an associated referral hearing before a Sheriff cannot be identified. A child is defined as someone under the age of 16, or someone under the age of 18 who is subject to a supervision order. The restrictions outlined in the previous paragraph also apply to Children's Panel/Referral cases.

In contrast, in civil proceedings in Scotland, a child can be identified unless the court makes an order preventing identification. Even although identification may be legally permissible in such civil cases, there may be other ethical or editorial considerations pointing towards preserving the child's anonymity.

Other proceedings involving children

These may be heard in the Magistrates' Courts, County Courts, or the High Court and deal with care proceedings, adoption, guardianship and similar concerns. Restrictions may apply preventing the identification of persons under 18, who are concerned in such proceedings.

It is open to the court to decide whether to ban the identification of a child involved in any other proceedings.

Children as victims of sexual offences

The law also prevents the identification of child victims of sexual offences.

Refer to Section 4.3 'Victims of Sexual Offences' of Chapter 27: Matters of Law: General, for further details.

Courts sitting in private

It is usually a contempt to broadcast detailed accounts of proceedings in any court sitting in private. This will include proceedings involving wardship, adoption or guardianship of an infant. In wardship cases it is not a contempt to report the court's order or an accurate summary of it, unless the court expressly forbids this.


Note that since the Children Act (1989) the term 'custody' has not been a legal concept and should not normally be used. Custody has been replaced by contact orders, prohibited steps orders, residence orders and specific issue orders.

6.2 The Protection of Children Act

The Protection of Children Act (1978) covers cases of children filmed or otherwise displayed for pornographic purposes. It is an offence under the Act to take an indecent photograph of a child under the age of 16 or to involve a child under that age in a photograph that is itself indecent even if the child's role is not. Explicit sexual contact between adults and children should not be depicted in any BBC programme. Programme makers should consult the BBC's Legal Department if they have any queries about the law as it affects children.

Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice

6 Children

(i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

(ii) Journalists must not interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving the welfare of the child or of any other child, in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children.

(iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.

(iv) There must be no payment to minors for material involving the welfare of children nor payment to parents or guardians for material about their children or wards unless it is demonstrably in the child's interest.

(v) Where material about the private life of a child is published, there must be justification for publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian.

Children in sex cases

1 The press must not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims, or as witnesses.

2 In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child

(i) The child must not be identified.

(ii) The adult may be identified.

(iii) The word 'incest' must not be used where a child victim might be identified.

(iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

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United States of America

Society of Professional Journalists (1996)

Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.

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