Working with activists, academics, NGOs and other child-rights experts in India, Kenya and Brazil, Internews Europe conducted in-depth research to assess the media’s role in protecting and promoting child rights. Some insights from the India research are presented in this blog. LSE alumna and India researcher Neeti Daftari and Shakuntala Banaji, Programme Director for the Master’s in Media, Communication and Development at LSE, summarise some of the findings of the reports produced and suggest that with training, targeted resources and ethical sensitivity, the media in India could do far more to improve and secure the rights, lives and futures of hundreds of millions of Indian children.
India is home to the world’s largest child population. It also has over three million civil society organisations (CSOs) and one of the largest and most complex media landscapes in the world. A signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, India has introduced several path-breaking programmes and legislations for safeguarding child rights. However, a low budgetary investment toward children has meant severe gaps in execution. Government-run programmes for children inevitably suffer from inadequate human and material resources, in some cases leading to terrible tragedies. Of the 430 million children in India, an estimated 236.5 million experience rights violations.* Policy implementation aside, the sheer diversity and scale of violations demands that the role of the Indian media must come under greater scrutiny.
While the Indian news media is entertaining and ubiquitous in many places, child rights experts express concern on the nature of coverage of children, childhood and children’s issues. The coverage is notably skewed toward topics that sensationalise news such as sexual exploitation and abuse (39 per cent of all child-focussed stories**). Future-oriented, discursive or solution-focussed reporting is extremely rare. With a significant number of news items representing children as helpless victims, it’s no surprise that stories on children’s issues feature no actual child voice, with just 8 per cent of such stories quoting children. Moreover, the absence of bodies or a single body that can effectively monitor child rights has meant that violations of national guidelines on child reportage often go unchecked. There have also been many incidents where the media has blatantly flouted guidelines and engaged in unethical practices, including demands from journalists that child rights CSOs pay a certain sum for favourable reporting.
Our research suggests a few key reasons for the low quantity and quality of child rights coverage. Continue reading