Protect children’s rights in reportage, UNICEF urges journalists

Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe

UNICEF is encouraging Nigerian journalists to accord priority to children’s issues in their reportage and programmes.

The call was made by UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Office, in Gombe, during a two-day zonal training for journalists from six states on ethical reporting of children’s issues and partnership strengthening.

After the meeting, participants agreed to form a team for children and resuscitate a social media alliance for children and women, through which members would send only stories that affect children and women.      

The journalists were equally challenged to appreciate the vulnerability of children and should avoid publishing stories or images that expose them to abuses, stigmatization or put them at risk.

Mr. Samuel Kaalu, the Communications Officer from the UNICEF Bauchi Office, said the objective of the meeting, was to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and information to report objectively on the rights of the child.

“In this particular instance, we are training the journalists for them to have enhanced skills on ethical reporting on children and women issues, particularly happening on children,” said Mr. Kaalu.

Children are sometimes seen, but not heard. Which means they do not have a say in matters that concerns their future and welfare.

The implication is also that their views are not sought in decision making and issues concerning them are sometimes thrown out in the open without due consideration to their feelings and future.

Based on these realities, the journalists from Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Taraba and Plateau states were brought together and refreshed on the essence of establishing the UNICEF.

The United Nations established the UNICEF in 1946 to cater for children of Europe, who were ravaged by the effect of war. By 1953, their mandate was broadened to cover the world, particularly children in developing countries.

It was mandated to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, help their basic needs and expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.

Consequently, the journalists were reminded of what the rights of the children are and how they can be applied in the journalism profession to protect the rights of the children.

Responsibilities

In essence, they were reminded of their responsibility in reporting children’s issues in order to draw the attention of policy makers and partners to the plights of children, without exposing them for public scorn.

The journalists were reminded of their responsibilities, such as seeking parental consent before an interview and shielding the identity of a victim of any evil in the society, among others.

One of the participants, Mallam Nura Faggo, a journalist with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, said the training was indeed timely, in terms of enlightening the journalists on their responsibility to report children issues without exposing them to discrimination or abuse in the present or future.

“These two issues of insecurity, occasioned by IDPs all over, where children and women are mostly affected, as well as the issue of malnutrition, which affects children. I believe these categories will make the media to beam its searchlight on children and women in the region.

And in the course of doing that, I know the intent is actually to advance their course positively, but in one way or the other, you find that the reportage turns out to affect the children negatively and this is because most of the journalists are ill equipped in terms of the skills required to report on this segment of the society, that is the women and children.

So UNICEF gathering seasoned journalists all over the ten states under its operation, I think the Bauchi Office, is a very good thing, particularly that all the journalists that gathered here are from the states affected by either the insurgency, or the malnutrition problem.

So our coming here is actually at the right time and we gained a lot, the best international standards in reporting children, in such  way that their rights are protected and their image is not battered in such a way that it will now come back in life to hunt them”, Faggo said.  

Some of the journalists also shared their views with Voice of Nigeria on how they could report issues of children with exposing them to stigma.

For Ayuku Pwaspo, a News Controller with Plateau Radio and Television Corportation, Jos, said the meeting was apt in reawakening the conscience of the journalist on the need to protect the rights of children.

“As you know journalism is an all comers profession and there are people who do what they feel like doing, maybe to sell their medium or to sell their paper. As such, we infringe on the rights of the child in particular. You know, generally, that the child is the most vulnerable member of the society and that child has rights that must be protected.

And the reason why we are here in Gombe, is to reawaken our conscience about the need to protect the rights of the child. Particularly the workshop is on Ethical Reporting, that what do we do that infringes on the rights of the child? What do we do that puts them on a disadvantaged position, that would stigmatize them for life and affect them psychologically?” said Pwaspo.

Charles Akpeji of the Guardian News Paper in Taraba State, is of the opinion that journalists are in the forefront of defending the rights of the child.

“ As journalists, we need to fight or we need to be at the forefront to ensure that the right of the children in this country is not violated. Because we’ve seen a situation whereby children have been compelled to undergo some unnecessary hardship, such as child labour or some domestic violence being meted against them. I think as a journalist, we just have to stand up to our responsibility to ensure that children’s rights in this country are no longer violated,” Akpeji said.

Ebua Amedu, is with the Nigerian Television Authority Network Centre, Jos, Plateau State. She said for a report to touch policy makers and at the same time protect the child, the was the need for the method of research to be right.

“Let me take a rape case, for example. You don’t just  go reporting it without finding out what exactly happened, how it happened and where it happened. So for you to now make it public, so that these policy makers can now be involved to enact a law protecting these children or this certain group of people in the society, the method of research has to be right has to right, has to be accurate. How you report it now, you have to tell the truth, but at the same time protect the protect the person involved, whether it’s a child or its an adult, you have to protect that person, the identity of the person, so that the society will not in future, mock that person,” said Amedu.

Overall, the participants were tasked to have an impact on knowledge and report issues concerning children and women in a more professional manner.

The participants also agreed that the media, a very powerful tool for social change, should portray children’s issues in a way that their rights and dignity would be protected.

Consequently, the journlists agreed to promote the rights of the child, which are rights to survival, development, participation, right to privacy; the right to have views and express them; freedom of expression and access to the media.