UAE media professionals have highlighted the need for improvement in reporting on children’s issues, and strengthening media’s contribution to positively influence public opinion and nurture child-friendly social norms. They also stressed on the need to develop effective media policies to safeguard children’s rights.
These opinions were shared during a workshop organised by the Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) in Sharjah, in collaboration with the University of Sharjah’s Center for Continuing Education and Professional Development.
The virtual workshop saw the participation of more than 50 media professionals across the UAE, as well as students of media studies and mass communication.
Prof. Radhi Muhsin Al Zubaidi, Director of the Center for Continuing Education and Professional Development, welcomed the participants, emphasising the center's keenness to support such awareness initiatives because of their positive impact in building an inclusive society.
Workshop presenters Dr. Ahmed Farouk, Dr. Engy Khalil and Dr. Shareefa Al Marzooqi from the University of Sharjah’s faculty of the College of Communications, discussed the principles of reporting on children’s issues in media, how to ensure the adoption of a responsible media policy towards them, and highlighted the need for analysing case studies of media content which violated rights of children.
The interactive discussion saw participants sharing their experiences and challenges while covering child-related cases and identified the issues that arose when reporting on child abuse and domestic violence cases. They also pointed out violations in advertising material directed at children and evaluated the adherence to professional principles of reporting on child-related cases in several published news stories. Participants presented positive and negative instances of the media dealing with cases related to children with disability and special needs.
Professional principles Dr. Engy Khalil elaborated on professional principles of reporting on children’s issues in media, showcasing a number of articles published in the Arab and international media. They included the principles and rights defined by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations General Assembly, in addition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Professional Principles of Arab Media in Handling Child Right Issues.
She remarked that the examples showcased the ethics and principles that should be implemented in media reporting when addressing issues related to children. They include equity, non-discrimination, freedom of thought and expression, protection of child privacy, transparency, accuracy, respecting family’s role, media support, integration and assistance.
Analysing media content that involves children For her part, Dr. Shareefa Al Marzooqi, Assistant Professor at the University of Sharjah’s Faculty of Communications, showcased positive and negative examples of media reporting in local and regional media, explaining the violations as well as adherence to the professional and ethical guidelines on reporting on children’s issues.
Al Marzooqi stressed the importance of including every aspect of reporting, from writing, to photography, video, and distribution on social media, in ensuring children’s rights. She also emphasised the important role of the family in raising awareness in children, who follow the news and are more engaged with their surroundings due to their access to a digital environment.
Responsible media policy Speaking about the ways of building a responsible media policy towards children, Dr. Ahmed Farouk, Assistant Professor at the University of Sharjah’s Faculty of Communications, defined media policy as a set of developed principles and guidelines to help journalists report on children’s issues in a way that enables them to serve public interest without compromising rights of children.
Dr. Ahmed Farouk discussed the factors that influence the formation of media policy, and the mission, vision, ethics, and the general goals of policies involving children’s issues. He noted that journalists have the responsibility to not only respect children’s rights but also actively promote them in media. They also had the responsibility to contribute to nurturing the social and psychological growth of children, he further added.
The workshop was held as part of the Child Safety Department’s ‘Responsible Media Safe Child’ initiative, launched by CSD in August 2018 under the directives of Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of SCFA, with the aim of improving standards of media reporting when addressing issues involving children.