Be ethical in reporting on children, journalists told

Closing remarks by MPI Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Dr. Chamil Wariya at Media Workshop on Children’s Right and Disability, organized by Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) and UNICEF, Pullman Bangsar, May 17 2017, Kuala Lumpur

First and foremost, I would like to convey my appreciation to UNICEF and also to Ms Marianne Clark-Hattingh for collaborating with Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) in organizing this one day workshop on children’s right and disability in Malaysia.

I was told 22 participants from 10 media organizations attended today’s workshop and I would like to thank them and their organizations for allowing their journalists to take part in this programme.

The collaboration of this program embodies one of the two directions of MPI’s training philosophy, which is to increase knowledge for our local journalists on various topics. For example we have worked with the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in conducting workshops on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants for the past eight years.

Thus when UNICEF approached MPI to organize this workshop, we accepted it with open arms. As the Malay proverb put it: kecil tapak tangan nyiru kami tadahkan. God willing, similar workshop will also be held in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in the near future for journalists in Sarawak and Sabah respectively.

Such learning experience, once practised, will contribute to the overarching idea of informed society. Journalists, as an informed member of the society should guide their conducts, not out of ignorance, but on well-grounded knowledge. Only then journalists can play their role as the middle men between their respective media entities that they are working for and the public at large.

In our particular context, with the completion of this course, I hope that the participants today are more aware of the needs and rights of their potential news sources: the vulnerable children. To those who are already informed of this topic, I believe that it will serve as a review or summation of the current updates of the scenario.

As you have heard from the various speakers at this workshop, reporting of children’s, with or without disabilities, has to take account not only of specific legislations related to their rights but also other factors such as sensitivities of the children concerned that may need some special and different attention. No doubt children can be great news sources for stories of human interest nature that may help sale or increase rating of journalism product.

But in doing so, journalists have to be ethical and adhere to certain guidelines when interviewing them for stories as highlighted by Mary Chen and Melizarani T. Selva in their talks this morning.

Media organisations should not exploit the vulnerability of children for their commercial interests alone. On the contrary we have the duty to protect them from exploitation of any nature. As journalists, we also have the duty to portray the right and true image of children to the world: that we care about the future asset of our nation.

Moving forward, we should be mindful of laws related to children but what is important on the personal level is to embrace these good conducts toward children as an ethical goal.

From my part, I think it is possible to develop and incorporate journalistic conducts towards children in MPI’s journalist ethics which was launched on 20th May 1989. This specific additional codification might serve as guiding principles and a reminder to our local journalists as far as reporting on children are concerned.

Perhaps various news organizations in this country too can also create their own code of conduct with regard to this reporting of children. And at personal level, the journalists themselves should always be guided by their conscience of what is right and what is wrong as far as reporting on children is concerned.

Thank you.