Children Issues and Media
Despite many trainings, clear or obscure clarifications in the law, discussions, disputes or agreements the precise formula of how children issues must be covered by media does not exist.
According to provisions of the law in case if a journalist acts upon consent from a parent he can reveal a child’s face and other identification signs. This is the right media outlets use when covering juvenile issues which often becomes topic for dispute and discussion and part of the society believes that media violates ethical norms.
Work with juveniles is the most sensitive issue. As a rule we need permission from parents even when we go to a kindergarten to cover events related to 1st of June. Let alone permission from trustees when making an article or video report about specific juvenile, although when working on children issues the main is context which defines moral-legal side of the issue.
For example when we cover 12-year-old juvenile who won some international contest and a juvenile who was raped by a neighbor, despite a fact that we may have permission from parents of both, it is hard to cover them both in a same way. It often happens that at such times journalists conceal faces of a juvenile but they show environment, neighbors, parents which means that a juvenile can be identified easily without even saying his name. Meanwhile authors of such materials have the argument: they have concealed the child’s face!
When covering children issues the most painful are topics that are related to their decease. For example, several years ago when covering Misaktsieli tragedy almost all media outlets “sinned.” Aside from the fact that we saw many articles full of rumors heard at village gathering places and saw many reports with moral analysis of behavior of neighbors at the child’s funeral table, the photo of the five-year-old deceased child was being shown by all media outlets during one whole week. We can say the same about the infant who starved to death one week ago. When they could not find a photo of the child they took a snapshot from a video-report made by Adjara TV several days before the child’s decease and published it on front pages; although, hardest to see was the video showing death of 9-month-old Barbare Rafaeliantz circulated by Kakheti Information Center. At that time Kakheti Information Center explained that it circulated the material due to high public interest.
Maybe those media outlets have not violated the law, although many believe circulation of such photos, videos and rumors to be unethical. Such people believe that in order for them to believe in a human tragedy it is not necessary at all to see photos of decreased children and listen rumors about it from neighbors.
Last scandal with children issues followed the publication of Bacho Akhalaia’s child by web-portal Politico. The issue was the threat sent to Ani Nadareishvili via Facebook. Part of journalists assessed the given fact as violation of the child’s rights. Despite that on one hand the portal has not acted illegally – permission for publishing the photos came from the mother, although on the other hand by showing the child to the public they could have brought him under risk.
At the beginning of the post I emphasized that there is no unique formula of how children issues must be covered by media, but even when publish a photo of a juvenile by permission from parents and we do not violate the law, we still have to have more responsibility for sure. At the time when a parent may not understand the threats, journalist must act as backup.
To make the long story short the disputes on ethicality of children issues coverage are and are not right. Journalists may not be violating the law but are violating moral and ethical norms which may cause problems to children years later. It is unfortunate that for many media outlets the given fact does not mean anything when they think about ratings.
P.S. I almost finished the post when I saw the front page of Liberali magazine. On the front page they have a photo of a 3-4-year-old child with the title: “Poverty as punishment.”