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Children in media
 

Children in media

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Journalists seem to be eager to report incidents of gross violence committed against children without any consideration of the kind of damage it could bring upon the child under consideration. The ...

Journalists seem to be eager to report incidents of gross violence committed against children without any consideration of the kind of damage it could bring upon the child under consideration. The more explicit the story, the more newspapers are sold. Abused children are paraded in front of TV cameras thereby abusing their rights to privacy as well as part of propaganda campaigns for those fighting for power.

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    Children in media Children in media Document Transcript

    • Children in media Children are exposed to high levels of violence with the widespread use of the Internet. by Lionel Amarakoon Journalists seem to be eager to report incidents of gross violence committed against children without any consideration of the kind of damage it could bring upon the child under consideration. The more explicit the story, the more newspapers are sold. Abused children are paraded in front of TV cameras thereby abusing their rights to privacy as well as part of propaganda campaigns for those fighting for power. The introduction of television to Sri Lanka in the early 1980's was instrumental in bringing about a drastic change in the island's media scenario. Since then TV has spread across the country rapidly within a relatively short period of time. Its growing popularity throughout the country persuaded many communicators to speculate on its likely impact on society in general and on other forms of mass communication channels such as the radio, the film and newspapers. In fact, many tended to blame the TV for the declining audiences in cinema halls at the time. Impact of TV is certainly very strong as it is fully integrated into the socio-cultural contestation fabric of modern consumer societies. All those who wish to influence the behaviour of the people, ranging from producers of consumer goods and services to political parties, tend to rely more on the TV than on any other media as the purveyor of their messages. On the other hand, the TV has become a site of contestation on diverse issues involving many stakeholders. This is understandable given the diversity of interests and ideas involved. While many stakeholders wish to accuse the TV for achieving their sectarian objectives, other tends to worry about the likely implications of the ensuing intense competition. It is due to these reasons that TV has become a subject of much discussion and controversy. There are 30 titles of daily and weekly newspapers on the stand and about 15 radio and 9 television channels fighting for airwaves, the competition is tough. Hence media is certainly a major influence on children and young persons. What is evident is not just an expansion of the media. There is also a clear segmentation in terms of ownership or control, implicit and explicit interest and ideologies they represent. The competition among media institutions has compelled the latter to cater to diverse demands. This is particular evident in the electronic and newspapers. The media house owners appear to make every effort to broaden and diversify their clientele. TV stations are busy making programmes targeting specific population groups such as women, children and youths. They are also the main groups that many consumer product companies target their advertising at. There is no doubt that the electronic media has already had a major impact on young persons and children.
    • More and more children gather in front of the TV screen to enjoy their favourite musical programmes or live telecast of sports events. The theme of the media and child is typically a challenging one as it closely combines three major aspects of children's rights: access to provision, protection and participation. This multidimensional nature of the right to information is generously recognized by the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its article 17 is particularly focused on the role of the mass media in relation to children's rights but includes a general obligation on State Parties to ensure that the child has access to information and material from diverse sources-especially those aimed at promoting well-being and physical and mental health. This is closely linked to the child's right to freedom of expression (article 13), and to maximum development (article 6). The media must be encouraged to disseminate positive material of benefit to the child and in line with the detailed aims for education set out in article 29. participatory rights The media should also be accessible to the child, promoting and respecting the participatory rights to respect for the views of children (article 12). The Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted the key role that the media can play in making the principles and provisions of the UNCRC widely known to children and adults, in fulfilment of the Convention's article 42. The media can also be crucial in exposing and reporting on breaches of the rights of the child. It is interesting to note here during the drafting of the convention, article 17 started out as a measure simply to protect the child against any harmful influence that mass media, and in particular the radio, film, television, printed materials and exhibitions, on account of their contents, may exert on his mental and moral development. Therefore, a decade after the adoption of the UNCRC by the UN, the child's right to information remains one of the most complex provisions to be implemented by States. The Committee on the Rights of the Child requested one of its members, Thomas Hammarberg, an exjournalist, to prepare a paper for the general discussion on 'Children, the UN Convention and the Media'. As stated in his paper: The Convention is formally addressed to Govt., and does not interfere with independence of the media. Still, it brings an indirect message to media institutions which goes deeper than suggesting that its existence and impact be mentioned. As with human rights in general, the press and other media have essential functions in promoting and protecting rights of the individual, including through monitoring violations and other action by govts. The rights of the child bring particular challenges for the media.
    • As is the case in all the countries in Sri Lanka media impacts children's lives positively and negatively. In Sri Lanka there is a low level of interest in reporting on children's issues and significant inadequacies in the existing coverage. As evident in the media's role of helping to realize the potential of children and for social change are not acknowledged or adequately supported in Sri Lanka. Children are used for advertising merchandise from ice cream to life insurance policies. Advertisers in general lack sensitivity whether it is on gender, children, disability, race etc. SC's concern is on children and how advertising affects children. There seem to be quite a number of types of advertising that affect children. 1. Advertisements speaking for children (Advocacy type). 2. Advertisements for children (consumer items for kids). 3. Advertisements using children (children taking part in advertisements). 4. Advertisements targeting adults but about children (goods or services which parents have to purchase for children). The sad situation is that in some instances human relationships are on sale. As is the case with regard to certain advertisements buying power becomes supreme to love and affection for children by their parents. Although the creativity in advertising is indeed very effective, some instances they (advertisers) rob from the children's world and leave children sad and confused about their own childhood fantasies. In a recent advert Santa Claus gets abused during Christmas as he is used in adverts for jewellery, liquor, lotteries etc. Unfortunately nursery rhymes get distorted in the hands of very creative copywriters. On the other hand Journalists seem to be eager to report incidents of gross violence committed against children without any consideration of the kind of damage it could bring upon the child under consideration. The more explicit the story, the more newspapers are sold.
    • Abused children are paraded in front of TV cameras thereby abusing their rights to privacy as well as part of propaganda campaigns for those fighting for power. An ISCA paper presented to the UN Committee in 1996, children are hardly included in the media at all. When they are included, children are often portrayed in 'stereotypical' portraits including the violent child, the poor/victim child, the gender stereotypes child and the innocent/romanticized child. Children are used and abused by the media and are often portrayed as victims. With the widespread use of the Internet to augment the traditional mass media, the press, radio and TV, children are exposed to high levels of violence and may be exposed to explicit material inappropriate for their ages or level of development. This could be damaging, as children would perceive violence as normal. Many countries in the world had developed guidelines to protect children from exploitation and misrepresentation in the media. Censorship is the commonest form, but the gaps existing in this method continue to grow as media organisation and access by children continue to grow. In a study involving about 16 media guidelines (both international and country specific) carried out by Save the Children Alliance (1996) found only three codes from Russia, Australia and Sri Lanka made specific reference to children. However two of them dealt with children as victims or perpetrators of crimes. The Sri Lanka Press Council's code of Ethics for Journalists states: In reporting or causing to be printed or publishes accounts of crimes or criminal cases, a journalist shall not name any young person accused of a criminal offence who to his knowledge is below the age of 18 years and to his knowledge is a person who has no previous conviction. But we understand that rules and regulations simple never work by themselves in this country. Examples of how Sri Lankan Children are used and abused in the media - Ex-child soldiers who have been surrendered to the GOSL forces were exhibited in front of the media and their identities disclosed thereby endangering their lives. (Violations of articles 3, 6, 19 and 36)
    • - Although there are regulations protecting children who are victims of abuse from being identified, media reporting often enables children to be identified thereby inviting public scrutiny, violations of their rights to privacy and re-traumatizing them (Articles 3, 6, 16, 19). - Children are used inappropriately by the advertising industry (Articles 3, 36). - Children are exposed to or used/exploited for sexual gratification of adults through the media (Including the Internet) (Articles 3, 6, 11, 34, 35, 36). - There is limited media space and time allocated for children to express their opinions and to obtain information they need (Articles 12, 13, 14, 17). - There is very limited opportunity for children to communicate with each other through media (Articles 12, 13, 14, 15, 17). - Visuals of dead bodies including blown up human bodies were repeatedly shown at prime time news on TV without any warning that it might upset the audience, which comprises of children. The same appears in the newspapers. - There is still very limited understanding of Child Rights by media persons and this is reflected in the work they produce. The media's potential for facilitating society's understanding of child rights is therefore limited (Articles, 42, and all other articles from 1-41). (The writer is Information and Documentation Officer, Save the Children in Sri Lanka)