Interpedia started the Frame, Voice, Report project Whose voice? Perspectives on Ethical Communications in Development Issues with a visit to Kathmandu. We intend to look into child labour as a child rights violation and how Nepalese organisations and individuals have worked to reduce the use of child labour. During this process we will also discuss ethical ways to portray vulnerable children in communications and journalism.
During our stay in Kathmandu we have interviewed many CSO actors and former as well as present child domestic workers and will continue our work with visits to schools they attend. Our aim is to make a documentary film and articles about the phenomenon and the work that has been done to combat the problem.
On Friday the 28th of September we organised a Workshop on Ethical Communications and Journalism in Kathmandu together with our Nepalese partner organisation CWISH. Staff members of Interpedia and our Nepalese partner organisations, a journalist and a photographer from Finland as well as Nepalese journalists attended the workshop.
In the workshop we all first shared our guidelines and principles. We found many similarities in the laws and guidelines and even the questions we ask ourselves, and at the same time we agreed that the issue of writing about and photographing vulnerable children is very complex and must be handled case by case. Each child is an individual and their stories are unique.
Since every case is different we all need to consider carefully what is the best interest of the child. We need to ask ourselves at least:
- Is the message/image respectful of the dignity of the child portrayed?
- Do you have the permission from the parents/guardians to use the image/story?
- Does it hurt the child or put them at risk?
- Can the children be recognised in the photos? Can they be traced?
Nevertheless, usually every case has many sides. Even if the parents give their consent we need to ask ourselves: Do the parents/guardians respect the child’s right to privacy? Mr Babu Ram Gautam, Team Leader of CWISH, mentioned that even if there is consent, CWISH still considers whether it is good to publish the information.
The Nepalese journalists Mr Shiva Gaunle and Mr Rudra Pangeni pointed out that it can also be a good thing if the names of children are published. They shared a story of a child that wanted to be expelled from school because her family didn’t have any money and she needed to take care of her younger siblings. After the publication of the story, she and her family started getting donations. In addition, in some cases it can be a very empowering experience for a child to be heard and have their opinion published with their own name.
Nepalese CSO representatives were also challenging the journalists on why underaged crime victims are so often traceable based on the details revealed by the media in Nepal. The journalists agreed that it has been the case sometimes, but they also told us about the dilemma they face: If they do not publish the names of the perpetrators, people sometimes think that the story is not true.
Need to avoid sensational presentation
The participants were also unanimous that we should avoid sensationalised reporting like pictures and stories of suffering children. The Finnish photo/videographer Tuukka Ervasti pointed out that “Photos should be used to raise public awareness, not to exploit public sympathy”. The CSO sector often faces this problem in fundraising efforts and struggles with finding ways of engaging people in their work, without using victimizing and stereotyping images. We need to protect the children, but it is also important that the children’s voice is heard.
At the end of the workshop our moderator, journalist and writer Eeva Simola, asked us to summarise the lessons learned and the ideas generated from the workshop. Mr Loonivaa Chitrakar, the Director of Patan CBR, put the discussions in a nutshell: “Think and rethink before you post photos or reports”. Many of us thought that these kinds of discussions are needed and very useful in our work because we all share similar dilemmas. The discussions helped us to internalise various guidelines and good practises. Hopefully we all have the opportunity to continue these discussions in some form in the future as well.