Reporters Promise to Protect Children’s Right

By Erol ONDEROGLU, BIA News Center, Erzurum, Turkey – 37 reporters and academicians participated in the Seminar on Reporting on Children’s Rights by the BİA² and UNICEF. They agreed that the media plays an important role in the correct representation of the child in society. … // … The seminar in Erzurum brought together 37 local media workers and academics, including students from the Communications Department of Erzurum University, and members of the Children’s Rights Commission of the Erzurum Bar Association. The participants came from nine different provinces. The seminar focused on preventing perpetual violation of children’s rights for during reporting on children. Considering that children are already treated unjustly the participants’ are invited to visualize children not simply as future adults or family members but as individuals in the society who are endowed with equal rights with others.

Guarantee to oversee children’s rights and support for journalist Kortag:

At the end of the seminar the media workers from local newspapers, radio stations, and television channels in Erzurum, Bingol, Kars, Igdir, Mus, Tunceli, Erzincan, Bayburt and Rize, and representatives from mainstream media each signed a letter of commitment to respect the rights of children.

With this letter of commitment, the reporters promised to fulfill their responsibilities as media employees “to ensure the rights provided in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” They also promised to “pay attention to prevent violate children’s rights when covering children, or with children,” and to “protect the children’s freedom of expression and their right to state their opinion on issues that concern them.” The reporters also promised to publish/broadcast a certain amount of news or conduct a certain amount of interviews in the next six months “on the children and with the aim of raising public awareness about children’s rights” and to “spend efforts to get those news or interviews published” by the media company that they work at. The participants also signed a statement of solidarity for Gumuspala Kortag, the general manager of the “Cagdas Kars Haber” (Contemporary Kars News) newspaper. who was absent in the training as his newspaper’s offices were targeted with gunfire attack on December 1. The statement condemned the attack and underlined that the attack was directed at the public’s right to access to information and the freedom of communication.

Kurkcu on BIA² and Hosta about UNICEF:

The seminar at Palan Otel started with BIA² Project Coordinator Ertugrul Kurkcu informing about the BIA² project, and UNICEF Communications Program Manager Sema Hosta about UNICEF’s New Country Program. The participants held discussions on news report clips from the media. Hosta pointed out the difference between girls and boys in Turkey in terms of education. She said that the local media played a huge role in the success of the “Come on Girls, to School” campaign. The New Country Program will target the neglected, said Hosta. “The 2006-2010 program aims at ensuring enrollment in elementary school and continuity in education based on sexual equality,” she added. Hosta argued that the consciousness about minimizing child mortality under five could be spread through the media. “The media should not only report news, but also take upon the role of questioning and supervising,” she said.

Akco: “The child should be protected in the society”:

The first activity after the speeches by Kurkcu and Hosta, was on “Children’s Rights and Reporting.” Lawyer Seda Akso from the Children’s Rights Center at the Istanbul Bar Association, listed the factors that the reporters should pay attention to when reporting on children’s issues: “Basic agreements on children’s rights,” “the developments required in terms of children’s rights,” “the children’s right to benefit from means of mass communication,” “protecting the child who is the subject of the news story from abuse, and protecting the child’s rights from being violated.” Lawyer Akco talked about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Additional Protocols of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights, as basic international standards. She said the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the document with the highest rate of ratification. She added that the US and Somalia still have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. She stated that this convention is very important, not only because children are the adults of the future and members of families, but because it regards children as individuals with basic rights. She said the Constitution oversees the protection of children, who are members of families, whereas the UN Convention fetters the protection of all living spaces of the children. Lawyer Akco stated that the responsibility spreads to the whole society, starting from parents, then social services, school, media, police, national and international institutions (WHO, UNICEF) etc. Akco also talked about the media’s potential role in preventing childen and improving their participation in the social life as individuals. The UN, which does not have a court like the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), evaluates the Convention on the Rights of the Child through the observation reports by UN Commissions, she added. She said it was important that the UN, in its Millenium Development Goals, also refers to the media. Akco also talked about the Beijing Rules on publishing about children, and article 21, which forbids the releasing of the child’s identity.

Onat talked about UN Development Goals and the Convention:

Lawyer Yasemin Onat, from the Antalya Bar Association, who has been working on children’s rights for the last four years, gave information on the UN Millenium Development Goals. Lawyer Onat said that the UN’s first goal is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” by 2015. Its second goal is to achieve universal basic education by 2015 and ensure that all boys and girls complete full course of primary schooling. Empowering women and promoting gender exuality are among top goals of the UN, added Onat. She stated that the proportion of girls in secondary school to boys was 64.7 percent in 1990, and 74.4 percent in 2004. She added that the UN aims to raise that proportion to 100 percent in 2015. According to Onat, the mortality rate among children under five was 52.1 percent in 1993 for each 1,000 alive births. She said this number was 37 percent in 2003 and added that the UN aims to reduce the mortality rate among children under five to 20.7 percent by 2015. Lawyer Onat, who also talked about the articles on the media in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and mentioned articles 13, 14, 15 and 17.

Accordingly:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child confirms that “children have a right to express their views; the child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print; in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.” (Article 13) “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” (Article 14) “States Parties recognize the righs of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.” (Article 15) “States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health.” (Article17)

Degirmencioglu: “Children’s participation is a democratic issue”:

Associate-Professor Doctor Serdar Degirmencioglu, the Children’s Rights Coalition Coordinator, argued that modern societies have created childless spaces but added that societies loosen up around children while power relations get minimized. In his presentation titled, “Children’s Representation in the Media,” Degirmencioglu pointed out the importance of children’s participation in decision-making processes both in the family and in the society and their participation in various activites.” Associate-Professor Dr. Degirmencioglu pointed out that Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges counties to “assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” “The child has rights even before being born,” said Degirmencioglu. “The child is an individual before being born. He/she makes his/her presence known and has an impact on the world. The participation of children in decisions and activities is not only a right but an issue of democracy.” Degirmencioglu argued that the earthquake on August 17, despite the tragedy, has contributed to the improvement of the non-govenmental organizations. He added that the young people, by having a higher participation, have brought down certain walls. Degirmencioglu also criticized some practices in the media that have a negative impact on the children. He used news stories as examples. “News stories are either too selective, dramatic or have nothing to do with children,” said Degirmencioglu. The participation of young people in the “Bush Radio” in South Africa, which has a high proportion of young population; and the publication of the “Agustos” (August) newspaper under a project of UNICEF together with SHCEK at the earthquake region, are successful efforts that target children, according to Degirmencioglu. The Agustos newspaper has not become widely distrubuted because it is distributed for free, which causes problems. Degirmencioglu argued that fines would not discourage the media from violating children’s rights. He said the media should listen to the children who “are more naive and more effective because they can directly express themselves.”

Cangoz: “The way media represents the child is important”:

Deputy Associate-Professor Doctor Incilay Cangoz gave a presentation on “Children as News Sources, Ethichs, Violations of Children’s Rights in the Media.” The media creates representations in public places, and those representations gain a social meaning, according to Cangoz. What the media creates as representations and how it presents them is very important, she said. Cangoz said that children become subjects of news in religious holidays, children’s days, and at the beginning of school years. She argued that children, who are seen as objects of consumption, are presented in the media as ‘villains.’ She said the media’s economy-politics, the codes of professional journalism, the hierarchical structure of the media production, sticking to certain sources and the use of masculine-language, all play a role in this. “We perceive the world, ourselves and our surroundings with the language we create,” said Cangoz. “We have to be careful when creating meanings.” She examined news clips with participants.

Duran had the participants discuss “interview with a child”:

Journalist Ahmet Sik and Ragip Duran from the Communications Department of Galatasaray University conducted a workshop on “Violations of Children’s Rights in the Media, Covering Children’s Issues and Conducting Interviews with Children.” Journalist Duran advocated during his presentation that the media recreates the society’s perception of children. He said a correct reflection of this notion and image would have an effect on the whole society. “It is very dangerous to consider the child as ‘the other,’” said Duran. “We have to look at the child as if we are the parents.” He said there should be good knowledge of the notions about children, adding this would have an impact on the news too. Duran talked about important points in interviewing children. The journalist must get permission, choose a place where the child would be comfortable, ask easily-understandable questions, avoid an accusatory attitude, subjective questions, or a too-emotional approach, and definitely confirm the information provided in the interview, said Duran. Duran asked the participants to discuss the photograph showing naked children escaping the napalm bomb on Vietnam in 1972. The participants discussed the question: “Would you publish this photograph?”

Sik : “Let’s avoid absolute expression if there is no evidence”:

Journalist Ahmet Sik reminded the fact that 26 million out of a population of 71 million in Turkey are children under 18. He answered the question: “How are children covered in the media?” by showing examples of some news. According to Sik, the most widespread violation of children’s rights in the media is the revealing of their identity. He said the reporters should take into account the psychological condition of the child. The reporter advised the representatives of local media to always ask: “What is the proportion of our news on children?” “Have we violated any rights?” “Which sources have we used?” Sik argued that news stories carelessly prepared could lead to a damage in the whole society and asked the participants to avoid absolute expressions in the absence of evidence.

BİA² has conducted seminers on Reporting on Rights in the provinces of Diyarbakir, Trabzon, Mersin, Izmir, Bursa and Bolu and on Reporting on Women’s Rights in the provinces of Batman, Izmir, Adana, Canakkale, Eskisehir and Ordu since September 2004.

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