Media outlet are increasingly reporting on children, often on the violation of their rights, thanks to global and other thematic days of disability and autism awareness.
Taking this into account, the Human Rights Defender’s Office of Armenia, in cooperation with The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), has published a manual for journalists covering issues related to children.
The creators of he manual want to help reporters to appreciate the rights of children when writing stories about them. The book reinforces the perceptions of journalists regarding the rights of the child, which describes the basic rules and principles of working with and promoting children.
Eduard Israelyan, head of the Human Rights Defender’s Department for Children’s Rights Protection, says that children’s rights are often violated in online publications.
“We often encounter material that shows a child who has been abused, publishing their personal information, their last name, place of residence and so on. Or put some horrifying titles, especially emphasizing the children,” said Eduard Israelyan.
Having examined hundreds of similar publications in the HRD, they decided to publish the manual.
“We hope the reporters will benefit from this and will further protect children’s rights and interests when presenting information about them,” said Israelyan.
The manual was developed, based on a similar publication by UNICEF. There were meetings and discussions with journalists during the process. The Ombudsman representative said their next step will be to train journalists on the same topic.
“Coverage of children who are victims of hunger, cold, homelessness, and trafficking have always had high views and reading, but when preparing those materials, journalists are not always guided by the standards of child protection,” aid frequent writer on child issues, Correspondent of Aravot, Lusine Budaghyan.
“The violations, of course, are not intentional and are mainly conditioned by the lack of professional knowledge of inadequate possession of knowledge. Therefore, such manuals are guidelines for covering children’s issues.”
As for the problem, according to the journalist, in many cases parents are not guided by the child’s best interests, and in using the child, try to solve this or that social issue. “In particular, they encourage the child to cry and be pitiful for the report and talk about their family’s situation, which in my opinion, humiliates the child’s dignity.”
Special care facilities do not maintain these standards either. With the permission of those who are caretakers of the children, the children often find themselves in unpleasant situation, irrespective of their own will. The children at the institution grow up, get married, forma family, but these materials are still floating on the web, explains the reporter.
Zara Sargsyan, head of the communication program at UNICEF, says that collaboration with the HRD staff was strengthened in 2015 when the HRD Division was created in the HRD Office.
“We started collaborating on different issue, one off which was ethical coverage, because both structures saw different types of problems in the field, from the simplest ones such as terminology, to ethical issues,” aid Zara Sargsyan.
According to her, the recently published manual is not a textbook on how to prepare the material, but here are some topical suggestions, especially for beginner journalists, on what to pay attention to, what are the most vulnerable issues, how to interview a child or if the topic is vulnerable and distinctive, how to create the material correctly without causing damage to the child.
Zara Sargsyan says that the manual isn’t considered final, and that it should be refreshed in coming years.