It was a packed hall at the Hotel Residency, Chennai at the release of Child Rights – A Handbook for Journalists, a Press Institute of India – UNICEF publication, on 22nd January, 2014. The book was released by N. Murali, member, Board of Trustees, Press Institute of India, and Caroline Den Dulk, chief, Advocacy & Communication, UNICEF India. The first copy of the handbook was received by Pamela Philipose, director and editor-in-chief, Women’s Feature Service. Also present were Satish Kumar, chief of UNICEF State Office for Tamil Nadu & Kerala; Sashi Nair, director, Press Institute of India; and Sugata Roy, communication specialist, UNICEF.
Can journalists play a proactive role in addressing issues and concerns relating to children? How should journalists report on child abuse incidents, ensuring that the report doesn’t violate the child’s privacy and dignity? Can the identity or image of the child be revealed in an article? Should one seek written consent from the child’s parent or caregiver while reporting on children? Would reporting on the manner of a child abuse incident help other children and their parents to raise their guard against such abuse, or would it incite and arm potential abusers in committing such crimes? These and several other issues were addressed by the speakers, and also raised by some in the audience. While Nair explained how views from senior journalists and editors were sought before finalising the draft, Kumar dwelt at length on the contents of the book itself, pointing out the various facets to the whole universe of child rights. Murali, Philipose and Den Dulk were almost unanimous in the view that while the media needs to pay more attention to children’s issues and devote space for them, journalists must temper the freedom they have with sensitivity and balance.