Basseterre, St. Kitts, (SKNIS): Ensuring the rights of the child even when the youngster is a juvenile in conflict with the law was the focus of an OECS Child Protection and Media Workshop which took place in Grenada last week.
Thirty-five senior media representatives along with representatives of Government Information Agencies from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis and host country Grenada were enlightened on issues including: Changing Perceptions about Juvenile Offending: the Role of the Media and Reporting on Children in Conflict with the Law and in Need of Special Protection. Aspects of: What is the research telling us about Child Protection issues in the Caribbean, and Exploring a Strategy for Dissemination of Guidelines and for sustaining training in Child Protection for Journalists.
The tone for the workshop was set when Dr. Patrick Antoine OECS Commissioner addressed the media representatives. He emphasized that the OECS Union was not limited to trading concerns.
“And so for that reason the mere fact that we have countries represented from the OECS here today which themselves have demonstrated the most successful strides … on cooperation and collaboration, and we have extended that in partnership with UNICEF and the US Embassy and its programmes on security in the region,” Mr. Antoine emphasized. “This says to me that we are beginning to realize the wholesomeness of what it takes to develop this theory of OECS civilization.”
Dr. Lisa McClean-Trotman Communications for Development Specialist UNICEF Office informed media representatives that there were five categories of children that need special protection. These are: children affected by abuse, violence and exploitation; children living and working on the streets; children affected by HIV; children with disabilities and children in conflict with the law. Dr. McClean-Trotman emphasized that there is often no empathy for youths who commit crimes.
“People tend to think only about juvenile offenders in the interest of their own safety,” Dr. McClean-Trotman stressed. “They’ve done the crime, so do the time – those are some of the perceptions that you hear … but I would like you to think not in terms of juvenile offenders but in terms of justice for children, because in doing so you not only look at offenders but children and adolescents under the age of 18 who are also victims, and witnesses to crimes regardless of their role in the offence.”
Louis J. Crishock, Charge D’Affaires U.S. Embassy Grenada felt it key to stress that the workshop was signature to the type of cooperation that exists between the OECS and the United States.
“I’m proud too because it’s an integrated approach,” Mr. Crishock emphasized. “Sometimes people say the Government of the U.S. spends a lot of time and energy on security and when they say that they mean just law enforcement issues – but I’m proud to say that the leadership of the Caribbean and the leaders of my country in building the Caribbean Security Basin Initiative (CSBI) have truly conceived an integrated approach. An integrated citizen security concept which I think is essential to providing real security to the Caribbean region which we share.”
Alecia Blake, St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) Senior Information Officer who attended the media workshop revealed that the session was very enlightening particularly the aspects that dealt with the vulnerability of a juvenile offender, society’s perceptions versus the actual Rights of a Child and how to protect juveniles when reporting without depriving the public of its right to know. The challenge of competing with social media for the public’s interest while maintaining the integrity and responsibility of traditional media was also explored.
The two-day workshop concluded with Facilitators and participants discussing various methods of sharing the information pertaining to child protection with all other media of the region. It was decided that a steering committee would be formed in order to fine-tune some of the child protection media principles discussed at the workshop which would then be established as a Charter for Caribbean Media Organisations pertaining to Child Protection and Reporting. The Charter would then be presented to the Caribbean Media Workers Organisation and the Caribbean Publishers and Broadcasters Association for dissemination to the island Media Associations or individual media organizations where the Associations were inactive.