05.11.2009. Stop demonising young people and become champions of child rights instead, trainee journalists were told in Brighton last week.
Rys Farthing, a lecturer in human rights, and Simon Flacks, a child rights officer from Child Rights Information Network (CRIN), made the call in a lecture at the Journalists Works training centre, Brighton, on 5th November 2009.
Ms Farthing said: "There is a moral panic in the UK, where children are demonised as a group to be feared.
“There is a ‘binary vision’, where children are seen as either angels or demons, not as the real people that they are. Discrimination against young people is no different to discrimination based on race or disability.”
Ms Farthing highlighted the media’s obsession with children as victims or criminals.
Last year, a UN committee criticised the UK for negative attitudes towards children, including their portrayal in the media. Such negative portrayal can lead to further infringement of rights, the committee said.
Ms Farthing said that 'panic lead' policies such as ASBO's and Youth Dispersal Zones, and the use of high-pitched sound emitting devices to control young people, were discriminatory.
Positive examples of journalism were also cited, such as The Sun/NSPCC campaign to stop child abuse, and the New Statesman’s ‘No Place for Children’ campaign. The press campaign that followed in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbié was credited with helping to prompt the “Every Child Matters’ policy in UK government.
Journalists were urged to become champions of Children’s Rights. They were asked to look behind the stereotypes and to promote positive images, to bear witness to injustice, to involve children in their work as witnesses, and to promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The trainees were handed copies of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRE) publication ‘Another Perspective’, which makes a detailed call to action to journalists to alter the media portrayal of children and childhood.
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