It is argued that children are not the future leaders that most people make them out to be but rather, current leaders in their own right. In most instances, children go unseen and unheard so much so that it makes them vulnerable to all sorts of abuse, ill treatment and extreme negligence by society ÔÇô the same society which in turn scorns them when they grow up to be rebellious and find themselves as juvenile offenders.
Much of this emerged in a recent workshop spearheaded by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) tailored to guide print and broadcast journalists on points to consider when reporting on or for children.
Children as per the Children’s Act of 2009 refer to anyone under the age of 18. MISA Botswana’s Information and Research Officer, Romang Mogapi, gave the attendants an overview of reporting on children, gathered from a mini survey MISA conducted.
The findings suggested that children felt sidelined by the print media, especially newspapers, and preferred television, radio and magazines. When giving these findings, Mogapi also indicated that their respondents’ interests were often triggered by seeing a picture of another child. They were particularly interested in lifestyle stories, research articles which could help with their school work, puzzles and more children programs in the broadcast media.
The recommendations from the children interviewed suggest that children do realize the need for media houses to consider their needs for inclusion in programming and content. It was recommended that “editors be encouraged to treat children’s issues with prominence”. They also suggested that they should be awarded the same priority as business and politics and that Media houses should collaborate with children’s clubs and consider the opinions of Children’s Organizations Specialists.
Child Protection Specialist with UNICEF, Ben Semommung, outlined Botswana’s position on the policy and legislation regarding child protection which defined the parameters expected from society when dealing with children. This presentation raised a heated debate regarding the issue of corporal punishment.
While some felt it was necessary during the formative years of the child, there were views raised that most people believed in it because they had nothing to make a comparison with since most of the people present were those who had been brought up by the rod. The status quo however is that there is a robust global campaign against corporal punishment in both the households and schools.
Facilitator of the workshop, Caroline Phiri Lubikwa, gave the journalists present various tips to consider when part taking in children reporting. Phiri-Lubikwa emphasized the importance of keeping the child’s best interest at heart when reporting and also to consider their right to privacy and confidentiality and their right to make their own decisions.
Most of all Phiri-Lubikwa stated that children needed to be protected from real and potential abuse. Regarding imaging, Phiri-Lubikwa explained that there should be written consent from both the child and guardian and that the images should not be in bad taste and should maintain the dignity of the child.
It emerged unanimously that child reporting is considered a ‘pink topic’ and that it was time that reporters and editors mainstreamed into as many aspects as possible, taking in to consideration that children make up most of the population of this country.