The previous week, news about the rape of a three-year-old child shocked the nation to the core, chilling every one of us to the bone and creating great outrage in the public. Bringing every part of society from journalists, doctors, experts, artists, politicians and activists together in condemnation of this horrible incident, numerous campaigns arose to prevent it from ever happening again.
Thus, we will focus on this subject this week in our Reader's Corner. We will provide several suggestions on how to cover news of child abuse and exploitation as media.
Let's take it from the top. Our first order of business should be realizing that the newspapers we prepare can and will reach children as well. Therefore, all stories, especially stories of child abuse, rape and exploitation, must be written with the understanding that children are likely to read them as well. Being well intentioned is not enough. We must specialize on how to communicate with children as well.
We also must realize that this is a widespread issue. Ever since newspapers became a household item in people's lives, children also became part of our audience whether intentional or not. Thus, our content and wording must reflect all due consideration. At the very least, all stories regarding children must be in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child along with the carefully prepared ethical principles of the UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Our colleagues that specialize in this type of content must read, memorize and understand these principles. Paying lip service is not enough; they must know the spirit not simply rely on the letter of the law.
Attempting to prevent negative effects on children is a good first step, but it is just the first one. We must also focus on cultivating positive effects on children with stories about them.
We must avoid exposing the identities of children who are victims of abuse, rape and exploitation lest we victimize them once more via media. The names of these children must be censored, and we must avoid using photos that show their faces. Otherwise we can negatively effect their lives later on. The same goes for photos of children used in social media campaigns.
Newspapers must be extra vigilant in cases of abuse, rape and exploitation. We cannot turn a blind eye no matter what. These stories must receive extra attention. Their content must go beyond a simple 5W's and 1H. Every angle must be examined thoroughly with regard to sociological, economic, psychological, demographical, legal and educational aspects.
When reporting these cases, a journalist must always pursue the answer to these questions: "How widespread is this?" "Is the crime correctly defined in the judicial system?" "Did the related official organizations take the necessary precautions?" "Can the punishments be considered deterrents and are they being implemented?" The answers to these questions must be shared with the public. They must be debated with every aspect on the table.
Media must follow cases of abuse, rape and exploitation until the very end. Journalists should always question whether medical employees, security forces and courts of law pay the necessary attention to the case or not. They must look out for the victims by standing with them and acting as their voice. Fearlessly, we must report on any negligence, inadequacy and cover-ups we witness.
Children victimized by abuse, rape or exploitation should be encouraged to speak up and press charges. Although the education system has the lion's share in this regard, media must also shoulder the responsibility of being educational and encouraging.
One of the duties of the media and journalists is to stand against crimes such as child porn, human trafficking, organ mafia activities and child prostitution. We must be fearless in the fight against people and organizations that spread such malice.
In cases of abuse, rape and exploitation, the media must act as lawyers for the children and protect them. Similarly, we must also reintegrate them into society as smoothly as possible. Media must stop seeing these cases as fodder for several days' worth of news content while forgetting them afterwards. We must make sure that these children receive the necessary protection and security.
While reporting on these cases, children must have a voice. We have to give them a chance to speak and ensure that they can express themselves. As they are what is important here, their views and remarks must be part of the story.
And finally, we must be careful with the wording and the tone of the story. Regardless how angry, outraged or disgusted we are with cases of child abuse, rape and exploitation, we must avoid translating that outrage as curses and bad wording while protecting the rights of the victims. We must avoid undermining what we are trying to accomplish with more bad examples. Not to mention that cooler heads always prevail.