UNICEF enjoins journalists to prioritise children’s wellbeing

Nigerian children attend independence day celebrations in Lagos in October 1, 2013. PHOTO: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has urged journalists to place the child’s wellbeing at the centre of child right abuses reportage in tandem with best global practices.

UNICEF Communication Officer, Lagos Office, Mrs. Blessing Ejiofor, said at the opening of a 2-day “Media Workshop on Ethical Reporting on Children,” which ended recently in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Ejiofor noted that reportage given to incidents of child right abuses in the country, if not in accordance to ethical journalism, often times end up doing more harm to the victims.

According to her, “We all know that reporting on children and young people has its special challenges. In some instances, the act of reporting on children places them or other children at risk of retribution or stigmatization.”

She said the workshop, which was in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, was geared towards creating opportunities for informed and ethical reporting on children by familiarising them with the principles and guidelines for reporting on children.

“Hence the aim of this workshop is to share with journalists some developed guidelines and principles that would assist them cover children in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. To familiarise participants with the equity focused, child right-based approaches to reporting the child and to share experiences on best practices worldwide as well.”

The resource person and UNICEF Media Consultant, Dr. Rauf Goke, who took the participants on ethical journalism, added that the potential impact of the news on the child and society at large must be considered.

“Practising ethical journalism should ensure that the immediate and long-term wellbeing of children is not jeopardised. Maintaining ethical standards is the responsibility of every journalist.”

Rauf, who is also the Director of Communication Studies, Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology, Abeokuta, insisted that the media should strike a balance between protecting a child from harm and respecting their right to know.

“Media has a way of mixing fantasy with the truth and children are likely to believe every information they are exposed to. So we need to be careful,” he said.

Ejiofor and Rauf lectured the media practitioners on ethics, truth, public interest, privacy, accuracy, decency, discrimination, urging them to desist from distortion, exploitation of sex, murder of character among other media vices.

“The guidelines are meant to support the best intentions of ethical reporter in serving the public interest without compromising the rights of the children,” they said.

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