1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

Endangered children sell many newspapers

The right to information versus children’s rights under debate in Oporto

by Helena Norte

Out of almost six thousand journalistic texts about children, which were published in four Portuguese newspapers in 2008, 65% referred to endangered minors. The conclusion: children are “emotional anchors” that sell many newspapers.

There is no shortage of examples for this reality: Joana, Maddie, Alexandra, only to name a few. We all know them, even by name, and in some cases, we have seen their image spread all over newscasts and on the press’ front pages.

The right to information versus children’s rights, like the protection of their privacy, was under debate yesterday, during a seminar that took place at the António Cupertino de Miranda Foundation (Oporto), through an initiative by the National Commission for the Protection of Endangered Children and Youths.

When the identification is not direct – like in the Esmeralda case, where her face’s image was preserved – the truth is that all the elements that easily make the child recognizable, from the image of the adults that disputed her, to the place where she lived, the school where she went to, were supplied.

This kind of indirect identification is also an attack against children’s privacy rights, Lídia Maropo underlined. The investigator at the Media and Journalism Investigation Centre spoke about the duality of criteria that is applied to “our” children and to “others”, which is patent in the massive diffusion of the image and all other details of the Alexandra case [Russian child], and the difference in treatment according to socio-economic stratus. The internet has introduced a new aggravating factor: the effects of media exposure now know no frontiers.

If there is disparity in the journalistic treatment that is given to news involving minors, the projected image is also dichotomised: they are either victims or delinquents, concludes Sara Pereira, an investigator at the University of Minho, who is performing a study about the representation of children and youths in the media.

A piece of evidence is that, in 2043 out of 5929 analysed journalistic items, the child appears in association with justice and protection problems, and in 832 it is associated with situations in which it provoked disturbances.

Pedro Mourão, the president of the Commission for the Journalist’s Professional Card, denounced the fact that “a major part of young journalists do not know the basic deontological rules”, like the prohibition to identify the victims of any kind of crime and abuse, under any circumstances.

source: Jornal de Notícias, 30.10.2009

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