Media Houses in the OECS have begun a series of discussions on raising the priority they give to children without compromising child protection rights and privileges.
At the first in a series of OECS Media workshops on Tuesday May 17th 2011, media workers in Saint Lucia were asked to consider ways of increasing the audience (readers) they attract to stories on children at risk because of the more unprotected such children are, due to the global economic down turn.
Lisa Mc Clean-Trotman, communications and programming coordinator at the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office hailed the opening leg in Saint Lucia as a timely intervention since the current global economic downturn can increase the risk of children rights being violated: “I know that in the last year or so a lot of focus has been on the economic recession and on covering it and so on. One thing I would like to leave with you is that in the midst of all of this do not forget the children. During times of economic recession children’s stories ; these soft news stories tend to go on the back burner , but it’s also important to recognize that these are also times when children become more vulnerable to exploitation as parents and providers become stressed, Also n terms of parents might perhaps use children to help better economic conditions so more than ever this is the time when you need to be more vigilant about child protection issues and also to report them and raise awareness about them as well as to give children, their parents and guardians a voice.”-Trotman
Head of the OECS Secretariat’s Social Policy Unit Darryl Montrope advocated the urgency for more partnerships between Media Houses and social policy workers to effectively address issues associated with protecting the rights of the child. In fact he stated that a television advertisement which strongly suggested the violation of children’s rights was a key factor in the decision by the OECS Secretariat to commence the OECS Media Seminar. The media workers agreed to work closer with social workers and agencies that look after the protection of children by firstly understanding each other’s position to help ensure that the stories they produce are more accurate, balanced and that the best interest of the child is always considered.
During the series of seminars throughout the OECS the Media Houses will be looking at issues such as interviewing children, investigating, reporting and writing stories about abused children, legal guidelines on reporting on Children in need of special protection as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Reviewing the Saint Lucia leg of the OECS/Media workshop Social Policy Officer at the OECS Secretariat Dwight Calixte says the participants agreed to ensure that the rights of children are protected when their media productions go public: “They agreed that they will follow some of the guidelines set out in the workshop in terms of reporting, in terms of ensuring that the best interest of the child is always kept up front in preparing their stories. They agreed that in taking photos and producing videos they will ensure that the rights of the child are protected and in no way will their reporting expose or identify that child. ”
Besides discussions on interviewing children as well as reporting and writing about abused children the media workers showed tremendous interest in a presentation by the OECS Legal Unit on the legal ramifications associated with exposing victims of child abuse and other forms of social impediments affecting minors: “They recognized that in law they had to basically toe the line and there were certain aspects within law which did not allow them to report openly on any specific issue. Often it is believed that the public needs to know about certain things but the law makes it very clear that when it comes to children or any male or female under 16 years, there are certain things they just cannot report and that was made clear in a presentation from our legal officer.” – Calixte
This is also the first time the OECS Secretariat with the support of UNICEF has engaged the media in dialogue on protected the rights of the child. Similar sessions are being finalized for other OECS Member States.