A Child Protection Code of Ethics intended to uphold and promote the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct among journalists in relation to their reportage on children, has been launched in Accra.
The 16-page document on the theme, “Making the Worth of Children Matter Through Reporting”, touches on issues of protecting the privacy and dignity of the child, participation and consent, responsibility of journalists towards society for the interest of children, and placement of images, videos, and messages in news reporting.
Developed by Child Rights International, a non-governmental organisation, the National Media Commission (NMC) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), with funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the document is also meant to ensure that the ethics adopted by journalists in reporting on children are updated to suit their best interest, instead of damaging their image.
Respect children’s rights
Speaking at the launch in Accra, the Chief Executive Officer of Child Rights International, Mr Bright Appiah, said the decision to develop the code of ethics was taken after it observed the trend of reporting on children in Ghana, and the major damage it could have on the children.
He said journalists formed important stakeholders in the development of children, and it was therefore important for them to ensure that the dignity of children was respected, protected and promoted as reflected in the journalism code of ethics.
Additionally, he said, since reporting on children took many dimensions, journalists must have a good understanding of the issues that confronted children, and exercise extreme caution when reporting on them.
Code relies on editors
Mr Appiah explained that the focus of adopting the code of ethics was not centred only on reporters, but editors as well, since they played key roles in the publishing of stories.
He cited various sections of the GJA code of ethics, Articles of the Children’s Act 560, the Juvenile Justice Act 653 and the Child and Family Welfare Policy guiding principles, that emphasised the need to report child-related issues in a manner that guaranteed the safety of children in Ghana, and called on journalists to properly examine their reports to find out how they impacted on children.
He also urged them to ensure that such reports did not put children in any form of risk, harm or damage their image, cause humiliation, stigmatisation or anything that would disrupt their healthy growth, saying, “Let’s all do well to understand the basics of journalism and apply it diligently when reporting on children issues”.
Moving forward, Mr Appiah said, the organisation, in an effort to promote good and quality reporting on children, would this year institute an award for the best journalist in child reporting with focus on children’s rights and protection.
That, he said, was intended to help identify, acknowledge and promote the work of journalists who adopt and practise ethical journalism when reporting.
Code of ethics
The President of the GJA, Mr Affail Roland Monnie, said ethics were intrinsic part of journalism and the adherence to ethical discipline showed the difference between a serious journalist and the one that was not.
He said the excessive injection of profanity in reporting cases of defilement by certain radio stations, exposure of victims of sexual abuse, among other infringements, were ‘professional diseases’ that were rooted in ignorance.
Mr Monnie, therefore, called for a conscious effort by journalists to reflect on the provisions of the code of ethics, and let it reflect in their writings to justify the production of the code.
In her address, the Head of UNICEF Child Protection Programme, Ms Johanna Eriksson Takyo, said telling the stories of children in public “must be done with respect and with dignity”.