Protecting children: Questions raised about media’s role

Participants call for age group ratings.

Express August 06, 2011


All television programmes including talk shows, news bulletins and entertainment should come with age-group ratings in accordance with the local cultural norms, Badar Alam, the Herald editor said on Friday. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC).

Alam was particularly concerned at the exploitation of children in commercial advertisements. “The children are often unaware of the wages, conditions and manner in which it is healthy for them to work for advertisements,” he said. The seminar was attended by child rights activists, journalists and educationists. Besides Alam, the speakers included Hamid Mir, Prof Mugheesuddin Sheikh and Hussain Naqi.

The discussion opened with a complaint about lack of social awareness and turned to the media and its capacity to address the issue. Government’s ability to effectively enforce the laws was also questioned.

Prof Sheikh, the Superior University mass communication department dean, said it was unfortunate that the society never questioned political parties on the issue. He said, “Media was not the sole agent of change in a society. We need to look beyond the conventional definition of media.”

Naqi said that nearly half of Pakistan’s population was under 18 years of age. However, nothing the media did to engage the audience in a way that would benefit it.

Mir denied that media was engaged ‘in a war of television ratings’. He said it was only trying to highlight issues. “The basic problem in our society is poverty. It is the root cause of most human rights violations and violence including child labour and abuse.

A SPARC representative regretted that the government had not appointed an officer to monitor child labour under the Employment of Children Act 1991. A large number of children were still working without any legal protection and monitoring, he said.

The participants also discussed the lack of social awareness regarding child sexual abuse and the need for counselling and rehabilitation of victims.

International agreements

Pakistan is a signatory to The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which defines any human being under the age of eighteen as a child providing protection to his/her civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

The 16th session of Human Rights Council was devoted to children’s rights.

According to the Convention, children everywhere have the right to survival, to develop to the fullest, to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation and to fully participate in family, social and cultural life.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.