Guidelinesfor media reports involving child protection issues in Belize(Ratified at March 23, 2004 NCFC Media Summit)All journalists and media professionals have a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethicalstandards. This draft guideline sets the benchmark for promoting media coverage that considers the bestinterest of the child as paramount in the context of the Laws of Belize and the UN Convention on theRights of the Child, while still upholding the public’s right to know.Journalists and media organizations should regard the violation of the rights of children and issues relatedto children’s safety, privacy, security, their education, health and social welfare, and all forms ofexploitation, as important questions for investigation and public debate. Children have an absolute right toprivacy, the only exceptions being those explicitly set out in these guidelines.Journalists and media organizations should not consider and report the conditions of children only as eventsbut should encourage the continuous reporting of the process likely to lead or leading to the occurrence ofthese events.It is essential for the workings of an agreed code that the industry self-regulates. The code should not beinterpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor sobroadly that it prevents publication in the public interest.The public interest and children’s right to privacyThe public interest includes:i. Detecting or exposing crime or a serious misdemeanorii. Protecting public health and safetyiii. Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individualor organizationJournalists and media organizations shall strive for standards of excellence in terms of accuracyand sensitivity when reporting on issues involving children. A child is considered anyone underthe age of 18 years as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Belize. Theonly exception to this age level this Code makes is as per #2 below.1. In any case where a child is involved in incidents, the reporting of which is deemed to bein the public interest, the child’s identity is to be protected where public knowledge ofsuch identity may have adverse effects on the child.2. In cases where the child is charged by the police as a perpetrator, and the police deems itin the public interest to have a child over 16 years identified, such identification of namecan be made.3. Journalists must not interview or photograph a child under the age of 18 on topicsinvolving the welfare of the child or any other child in the absence of or without theconsent of a parent or guardian.4. Fair, open and straightforward methods for obtaining information from or pictures ofchildren should be used in all cases or reporting, whether such reporting will haveadverse or positive effects on the child. In cases of schoolchildren or children involved inorganizations, such children must not be approached or photographed while at school orat the organization without the permission of the school or relevant authorities.
25. Journalists and media organizations should avoid the use of stereotypes and sensationalheadlines and presentations in promoting journalistic material involving children.6. Where material about the private life of a child is published, there must be justificationfor publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of the parents or guardians.7. Journalists and media organizations must not make payment to children, or to theirparents or guardians, for information.8. Where children provide information, independent verification of such information shouldbe ensured, and special care taken to ensure that such verification takes place withoutputting child informants at risk9. Portraying children in explicit and/or provocative sexualized images should be avoided.In instances where such images are directly related to the news value of the story, theyshould be used with discretion. In reports on the sex trade involving children, children’sfaces or other identifying markers should be cropped; in print, names should be changedand this change so stated.10. Verification should be made of the credentials of any organization purporting to speak foror to represent the interests of children.11. Children in abuse cases: sexual, emotional, physical or exploitation cases:(a.) Journalists and media organizations must not, even where the law does not prohibit it,identify children under the age of 18 who are involved in cases concerning sexualoffences, whether as victims or witnesses. In these cases:i. The child must not be identified, whether through words, images or otherinformation such as street address or identification of relatives. Thechild’s life and/or mental stability could be put at risk.ii. In cases of sexual abuse involving incest, the word “incest” must not beused where a child victim might be identified.iii. Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationshipbetween the accused and the childiv. Care must be taken that nothing in the report identifies relatives orfriends of the abused child that would then lead to the identification ofthe childv. Hence, accused abusers may be identified given that the journalistensures that nothing in his or her wording, or interwiews with relatives orfriends of the accused abuser, lead to the identification of the child.(b.) In cases of abuse involving child perpetrators, refer to #2.---------- ----------- --------- ---------