The media plays a vital role on sensitizing the general public on child maltreatment and thus on how often child abuse and neglect cases are reported, but also regarding the overall operation of the child protection system as well as the overall perception of child as a subject bearing rights and their potential violations. It helps raise awareness on this issue among victims, parents and the general public, holding an important role in prevention, in highlighting emerging issues, and putting pressure on agencies and policy makers so that they are held accountable for their actions or omissions, when necessary. Journalists can provide comprehensive coverage on such issues that could highlight prevention approaches and promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families.
Journalists can help audiences understand that child abuse and neglect is not simply the result of individual failures or family dynamics, but a public health issue that affects communities and society in significant way.
The Institute of Child health in Greece went on to organize an online discussion, aiming at investigating whether journalists recognize their vital role on these issues. Therefore, a small group of journalists was invited to join a participatory debate on child protection issues facilitated by ICH and the Greek Ombudsman for the rights of the child. During the discussion, in the context of which crucial issues arose and were discussed, it was kindly asked that the journalists would respond to an online questionnaire that aimed to assess their knowledge in child abuse and neglect. Resulting from this discussion it was found that journalists had several shortcomings in their knowledge concerning important issues related to child abuse.
It was observed that journalists are under misconceptions about:
- the perpetrator (whether it is usually a person known to the victim, for example parent, educator, coach, or a stranger)
- the reporting process (who, when and how someone can report a case of child abuse and neglect)
- the criminal proceedings
- the harmful consequences of removing a child from home and transferring him/her to a child protection residential unit
- alternative placement options
- the necessity to protect the confidentiality of the victims of child abuse and neglect and their families
In conclusion, it was pointed out that it is essential that the collaboration between ICH and the journalists is continued, in order to raise the journalists’ awareness regarding the cases of child abuse and neglect, expecting that this will lead to them handling reports reportage stories and interviews concerning child abuse and neglect in a more precise, caring and appropriate way.