World Press Freedom Day

The theme for World Press Day 2021 is “Information as a Public Good.”

By Constance Ndeleko

The World Press Freedom Day was declared on 3rd May by UN General Assembly following a declaration in 1991Windhoek Declaration. The day is celebrated to guarantee the protection and safety of the press in the face of attacks against its independence, to discuss journalistic ethics and to celebrate journalists who gave their lives in the pursuit of truth.

Dejectedly, there are about ten nations where press freedom is still a nightmare and limited which correspondingly limits reporting on child rights issues. These countries include– China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Eritrea, Djibouti, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Cuba.

More often we are hindered to report on controversial issues that tend to bring to light to the ill-fated agendas happening behind the scene as we strive to find justice more so on child related issues. Children are particularly vulnerable, impacts on them are often serious and can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Reporting on child related issues is not an easy task most especially when it embroils child protection measures and seeking consent prior to collecting any data about them.

Children might be subjected to different forms of abuse and violations of their rights which need to be highlighted but certain hindrance prevent justice from prevailing. At the cost of this children are still enduring injustices and heinous acts when the press coverage is limited, censored or banned from covering such stories.

This year’s theme speaks to “Information as a Public Good” which is super important in the lives of children. Access to information is essential and crucial to children in this century especially where the 4th revolution has leveled up and technology keeps evolving each day. We live in the modern day where internet has become one of our social mobility to get into a new level information and the utility of it has value on education, social interaction and general knowledge.

Accessibility to these information should be upheld with high integrity where access to any information or news should be equipping children with the right content following the right journalistic ethical codes of conduct.

UNESCO states that the theme calls to cherish information as a public good along with exploring ways to distribute it and strengthen journalism. World Press Freedom Day 2021 is expected to highlight three key topics:

  • Steps to ensure the economic viability of news media;
  • Mechanisms for ensuring transparency of Internet companies; 
  • Enhanced Media and Information Literacy (MIL) capacities that enable people to recognize and value, as well as defend and demand, journalism as a vital part of information as a public good.

Journalist should be emancipated to bring accurate information to the public in order to give the society the confidence to make decision that will guide them. There’s need for the press to understand how to report on gender issues as well as child related content to ensure maximum protection revolving around these stories. They need to be capacity build to ensure that they carry each story with the sensitivity it needs.

Contrary, attacks on journalists affect their ability to execute their professional duties. As reported by Al Jazeera, UNESCO has found that online attacks on female journalists have significantly increased. The survey was conducted in 125 countries and as many as 900 women journalists participated in it.

According to a publication by Mo.tif on Ethical reporting on Children in the media it states:

Journalist should take considerations when covering child-related topics and promoting and protecting child rights through the media. They should seek consent from adults and ask the child in a suitable way on how they are going to be featured.

Journalist should ensure that revealing the child’s identity will not harm or damage their identity regardless of consent by the responsible adult. Responsible media professionals should consider that adults may not be aware what the best interest of the child is.

They should ensure that the child feels comfortable with their presence and tools being used will not make them feel uncomfortable or shameful they should also consider; is it possible that such feelings can appear years later when the child is an adult? Are we sure that the material does not offend the dignity of the child?

We should all remember that, words are the strongest weapon in the hands of the media. Words and images can help and at the same time inflict irreparable damage to those affected, if improperly used.

The media must serve as a guardian ensuring that justice for persons under the age of 18 is in conformity with children’s interests.

Children in conflict with the law are children at risk, too, and the media coverage of their cases must be approached very carefully. Violence and anti-social acts among children are often linked to violence on behalf of adults and with the way children have been treated. Young offenders have the right to a second chance.

Children need support for that, not stigma. So, we should ensure that our materials do not suggest that they deserve fewer rights than other children. Do we examine carefully enough the risks faced by children in conflict with the law and whether the environment they live in provides opportunities for their resocialization?

Positive coverage of the opportunities for children in institutions to reintegrate into society can contribute to counteracting ignorance and prejudice. Giving such children the opportunity to be present in the media and express their opinions and views is also a positive step in that direction.

Ethnic minorities are often object of prejudice, discrimination and stigmatization. It is the duty of the media to examine and expose the root causes and the consequences of that, especially on the youngest and most vulnerable representatives of those minorities.

We should also seek to give children who have been the object of discrimination
the opportunity to tell society how they feel as a result of the prejudice against them. The effects of discrimination and segregation of children of minority origin cover some key domains of life: access to education, health-care, adequate justice and protection, and they carry some long-lasting consequences for their future development and inclusion into society.

Media has a key responsibility to promote respect for diversity and a culture of non-violation of child rights – this would have a long-term positive effect on society as a whole, promoting values such as peace, justice, equality and prosperity.

Protection of the child’s rights, interests and personal dignity must be at the core of each filming team’s work. We should always do our best to assess the possible future consequences for the child both as an object exposed to observation by others and as a subject that observes his/her public coverage himself/herself.

Do we give enough visibility not only to the problems of children but also to their opinions and ideas as equal members of society? Do we ensure sufficient visibility of their achievements?

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