The Media Institute of Southern Africa in Swaziland, in partnership with Save the Children is running a training and research program on young people and the media. On Wednesday 19 June, MISA held a training session on ‘ethical reporting of children’ and arranged for three journalists to hear the thoughts of a group of Swazi students from Sifundzani High School. Swazi News reporter Zwelihle Sukati wrote this article for MISA-Swaziland on his observations from the day…
The training of Journalists by Swaziland’s Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) in partnership with Save the Children in Southern Africa was truly an eye opener for the local scribes. Research shows that while the newspapers in the kingdom of Swaziland often write stories about children and young people, these stories rarely capture the actual voice of young people or children.
Mostly, it is politicians, civil servants, NGO leaders and police who are talking about, or on behalf, of children in the media, rather than the children themselves.
This was attested by children themselves during a group discussion with pupils at Sifundzani High School.
“There is too much focus on adults in the local press and we are left out. No one cares or asks for our views yet we are the future. We want to be heard and taken seriously as children,” said the pupils from Form II Arab class at the school.
“It is fine to seek consent from our parents or their comment on our behalf when it comes to serious and sensitive stories, but for soft stories we feel our consent would be enough,” the pupils pointed out.
During the morning session discussions at the MISA-Swaziland offices, before the group discussion with these pupils, journalists were lectured on the rights of the child as enshrined in the Kingdom of Swaziland Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Swaziland National Association of Journalists Code of Ethics on reporting about minors.
It was held during that morning discussion that as much as there were ethical guidelines to keep in mind when interviewing young people, MISA and Save the Children believe there was no reason not to try to ethically and accurately to capture the voice of young people in the media.
It is the duty for journalists to be sensitive and accurate when reporting issues involving children as well as to consider carefully the consequences of reporting any information governing children.
Journalists are to avoid visually or otherwise identifying children unless it is overwhelmingly in the interest of the child when compiling reports.
Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children the right to privacy. It calls for the enactment of laws to protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.
Article 12 of the UN Convention commands respect for the views of the child. When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account. This Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making, not give children authority over adults.
In all these discussions journalists got equipped on how to ethically and accurately capture the voice of children and young people in their stories.
The next phase of the training was the group discussion with the pupils from Sifundzani High School. They shared the same sentiments on their views about the local media and reporting as well as where they expect to see change. The discussion was led by a teacher at the school, Jennifer Martin. The ages of the pupils ranged from 14 to 16 years.
First they raised issues which they felt were challenges or problems that the youth of the country were faced with. Such included, but not limited to, drugs and alcohol abuse, cyber bullying on social network media which may lead to depression and low self-esteem, peer pressure, pornography from the internet as well as sexual relationships with adults who entice children with gifts.
The most preferred media, according to the pupils, is the Internet, Magazines and Newspapers where they focus on the entertainment or leisure sections.
They have access to all media including television and radio at home. Newspapers and magazines are brought home by their parents.
The pupils displayed their vast knowledge on current issues and world news. They felt at times the local press censor news which is of public interest. “We like to also read about critical issues and those juicy stories like salary increments, education and politics,” they said. “The local press especially in the sports section do not acknowledge the other sports. It is just all about soccer. And the layout of these newspapers needs to be improved to make them attractive, especially the Swazi Observer. Both local newspapers need to also improve in their colour. Too much of the black and white pages make them dull,” the pointed out.
They called upon journalists to be accurate and factual in their reporting to do away with the press ombudsman which tend to take the press’ credibility.
Radio and television stations were seriously ‘attacked’ for not being youthful enough for their liking. “With the local television we seriously think there is a need to have two channels for Swazi TV-one to focus on the youth. Currently, there is nothing to watch. For example, they have a whole two hours of foreign news channel in DW TV,” they pointed out. They said there were no current movies, educational programmes or vibrant entertainment.
The local radio station SBIS was also not spared. “Even though there is the English Channel, this is just a translation of the ‘boring’ SBIS SiSwati Channel,” they said. The pupils complained about endless repeats in programmes which then leads them not tuning in and preferring foreign channels.