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Respect kids' privacy, media told

Respect kids privacy, media told
SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: Major-General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi and other panellists during a session at the first Child Safety Forum in Sharjah on Tuesday. - Photo by M. Sajjad

Sharjah - The media had a greater role to play when it came to reporting incidences of child abuse, neglect or accidents.


Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Tue 17 Sep 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 17 Sep 2019, 11:42 PM

 UAE authorities have warned media institutions that breaching the privacy of children during incidents or accidents would be considered a criminal act according to the Wadeema Law.
At the first Child Safety Forum organised by the Child Safety Department (CSD) in Sharjah on Tuesday, officials urged media to respect the privacy of kids during the coverage of child-related incidents or accidents and avoid publishing details that would affect the future of children.
The officials also came out with strong recommendations for a more socially-driven and collaborative approach to create community awareness among various stakeholders who have a responsibility towards ensuring child safety.
The event titled 'Responsible Media... Safe Child', was organised under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA). It stressed on the need to shift focus from segregation of individual responsibility to the creation of an environment where child protection is a collective responsibility fulfilled by parents, the government, lawmakers and media.
A panel discussion titled 'The media's role in addressing children's issues: Legislation and professional guidelines' was led by Major-General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Commander-in-Chief of the Sharjah Police. It was attended by Hassan Yaqoub Al Mansouri, secretary-general of the Sharjah Media Council; Ibrahim Khadim, media content director at the National Media Council (NMC); and Dr Waleed Khaled Al Hammadi, senior deputy prosecutor and director of juvenile prosecution at the Sharjah Public Prosecution.
Major-General Al Shamsi noted that child safety is a top priority for the Sharjah Police and emphasised the importance of media's role in enhancing community awareness through positive examples. "I request media to be more positive in their interactions with people, not just children. We need to be very careful in the way we project children's reports and stories on media platforms because the child's family might be deeply affected."
He suggested the formation of a committee led by the CSD, featuring representatives from government departments, public prosecution and media to share knowledge and child safety practices so that awareness and protocol are disseminated in a timely manner.
Hassan Yaqoub Al Mansouri called for a more holistic approach to finding effective solutions to matters pertaining to child safety. "The media is always under the spotlight because it's a major input in shaping public opinion. But why are they blamed singularly? Isn't the responsibility to protect our children a collective duty?," he asked.
Dr Waleed Al Hammadi noted that child protection laws in the UAE are stronger than ever with the introduction of the Wadeema Law (now the Child Rights Law). "Of course, our country offers people the ability to sue offenders, but we need to be aware and committed to these laws because the psychological effects of abuse on children, even bullying, is sometimes irreversible," he added.
Alia Al Kaabi, head of Family and Child Prosecution at Abu Dhabi Judiciary who was among the forum's audience, stressed the need for united efforts not just in Sharjah, but across the UAE. "Collaboration is a must if we need to make the UAE the world leader in child protection and safety. If we want a strong awareness culture for child safety, we need to build it together," she added.
Call for awareness programme for parents, educators, media
Experts at a panel discussion during the first Child Safety Forum in Sharjah said that the media had a greater role to play when it came to reporting incidences of child abuse, neglect or accidents.  
The discussion titled "Developing child-friendly media policies" was led by Eman Hareb, director of Community Protection Department at the Ministry of Community Development.
Omar Salem Al Ameri, consultant, Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, emphasised the need for a collaborative approach to boosting child protection and welfare. "If a child can go to a swimming pool unattended by a parent, the crime's already been committed. In this case, it's the parents' negligence. We have also noticed some teachers did not even know the term bullying or its meaning. Parents and families are the child's first line of defence and in that sense they have a legal responsibility to safeguard their child."
He recommended the introduction of family coaching as a service offered by the family registrations department, noting it could be instrumental to ensuring that parents become really aware of their children's rights and the risks they may be prone to. 
Eman Hareb said: "We must consider starting a strong awareness programme for parents and media. Our ministry has launched the first online platform dedicated to educating children about their safety. The platform targets children up to 15 years of age, and there are numerous resources that educate them about dos and don'ts. The driving game, for instance, does not allow players to drive, which teaches them that they need to be of a certain age and earn a driver's license before getting behind the wheel. I encourage everyone present to open these new and interactive windows of learning to their children."

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