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The coverage of issues concerning children and childhood has become increasingly prominent and journalists now have access to any number of sets of guidelines. Within academia there is a growing body of scholarly literature concerning journalism, the media, and coverage of children.
This activity has been mainly in the context of children’s rights. UNICEF, has been successful in highlighting the UNCRC and the role of journalists and the media in making the Convention work.
DIT, and the author, has been working with UNICEF, since 2006, in developing a syllabus for journalism schools. So far 27 universities from Turkey to Central Asia have adopted it. It is now being adapted to Africa.
The project objective was to embed the concept of children’s rights among students of journalism through using specially designed material for journalism schools. This, it was hoped, would mean a qualitative improvement in the coverage of issues surrounding childhood.
The project has raised a number of important questions relating to the role of journalists. Do such projects compromise journalists by making them, in this instance, supporters of UNICEF and the Convention on the Rights of the Child? If journalists are encouraged to question and be sceptical, are we suggesting UNICEF be exempt?
Children have a right to have their story heard, to be included in any analysis of society. The actions of governments who have signed the convention should be scrutinized and journalists should be aware of the contested nature of the concept of children’s rights.
A reliance on the contested area of rights introduces a legalistic framework, which can threaten freedom of speech and the press. If coverage of children, and ensuring they are heard, is good journalism, and if there is a need to debate children’s rights itself, what is the best way to do this? These are the questions to explored in this paper.
Michael Foley; Childrens' Rights and Journalists', paper delivered at the International Conference on the Institutionalisation of Child Rights in the Digital Future at Istanbul University, Turkey, Oct 16th, 2014.