UNICEF launches regional media project to influence reporting on children rights issues

CMC – A regional project aimed at improving the image of children through media reporting has been launched in Barbados with a senior United Nations official noting that the way the media “represents or even ignores” children can influence decisions taken on their behalf.

“The media often depicts children as silent victims or charming innocents. But by providing children and young people a platform to speak for themselves, about their hopes and fears their achievements and the impact of adult behaviour on their lives, media professionals can unleash the creative power of children and young people,” said Muriel Mafico, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean.

The project, which is being undertaken in collaboration with the Barbados-based Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) and the Association of Caribbean media Workers (ACM) is also aimed at encouraging children to participate actively in the media as well as protecting them from “harmful influences” in the media.

Mafico said that while the media in the Caribbean has been pivotal in “breaking the silence” around violence and abuse of children “we also need to confront some sobering realities” regarding children.

She said a 2014 UNICEF commissioned review of the media’s treatment of children issues in six regional countries highlighted some “unfinished business which requires our urgent and collective attention”.

She said of particular concern is the fact that the survey found that in many cases “up to four in every 10 reports in some countries, the way in which stories were reported violated the rights of children.”

She said these included naming children caught up in violent situations, not considering the negative impact of reports on children, interviewing children in the absence of parents and general gaps in awareness of basic human rights of children.

“These challenges are not unique to the Caribbean region. Indeed, other regions are also grappling with the same issues. Given the critical role of the media, it is important to ensure that journalists and editors and other key stakeholders are equipped to report on children’ issues guided by sound and context specific code of ethics,” she said.

The UNICEF official said that the partnership with CBU will build the capacity of the media executives and professionals in the traditional and new media institutions “to institute and implement policies governing reporting on children’s issues.

“This will be grounded in the Caribbean reality, owned and led by Caribbean media experts,” she added.

CBU president Shida Bolai said that since the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, “Caribbean media houses have been active in raising public awareness of the issues affecting children and our in our societies”.

She said she was happy that the CBU with membership throughout the English, French, Dutch and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, had in their programming have been able to pay attention to the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable, including children.

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