The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) has partnered with the Ministry of Mass Media, the National Child Protection Authority, the State Ministry of Child Affairs, the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, the College of Journalism and UNICEF on a campaign to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse and violence against children. In this regard a media roundtable was hosted by the Minister of Mass Media to discuss the related issue of ethical reporting of children, particularly the secondary victimization of child victims. The roundtable took place on the 22 June at 6.00pm at the Grand Western Hotel, Colombo 05.
The roundtable focused on specific audiences mainly the media owners of both print and electronic media. It was stated that sexual abuse and cruelty to children occurs in many situations, but most often it is not visible, the problem remains hidden and sometimes not reported. Whilst there are laws to protect the rights of children, more awareness is needed to break the culture of silence, ignorance and acceptance about such sexual abuse and violence (physical abuse/cruelty) among families and efforts are now needed to increase awareness among the public, increase reporting and awareness of the Penal Code, where any person guilty of Cruelty and Sexual Offences against children is punishable in order to prevent continued abuse of children in their homes and in the immediate communities in which they live.
Furthermore it was stated that while reporting of these incidents on print and electronic media is needed, it should also be carried out with immense responsibility and due care to protect the privacy of the child victim. Speaking at the event the SLPI Chairman, Kumar Nadesan mentioned that, the media should be proactive in understanding the outcome of such reporting and protects the dignity of the child victim.
Child Affairs State Minister, Rosy Senanayake in her address mentioned that while the role of the media is appreciated and acknowledged in bringing these incidents to light, there is immense amount of sensationalization that is taking place which contributes to secondary victimization. She also referred to the the Code of Professional Practice by The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka and upheld by the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka, saying that guidelines mentioned there on child reporting and child victims, with certain changes could be the means to overcome the issue at hand.
The UNICEF Country representative, Una Mcauley in her speech, earnestly requested the media to think of their own children, so as to have an empathetic approach, which could mitigate some of the outcomes of insensitive reporting.
In order to curtail this challenge of reporting on children, a 14 points code on child sensitive reporting as a guideline was also proposed by Mass Media Minister, Gayantha Karunathilaka and the Mass Media Ministry Secratary, Karunarathna Paranavithana. This was also suggested by the other distinguished guests at the head table, namely, the National Child Protection Authority Chairperson, Natasha Balendra and Child Protection Expert and CRC Committee, Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne.
The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) is a body incorporated, constituted by the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association with its Main Objects being “to assist, encourage and facilitate the Press to exercise and uphold its freedom and be responsible to the Public”. The SLPI is the country’s leading institution that envisages development of media in Sri Lanka through professional training and upholding ethics. It has two major divisions the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ) which handles the training of journalists and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) that operates as a mediator between the public and the media.