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Newspaper violates child's rights

(ANEM/IFEX) - Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly protests against the publication of the article titled "Olja's son, a drug dealer" in the Belgrade daily "Kurir", on Tuesday, 16 June 2009. In that piece, making a minor absolutely recognizable, the daily arbitrarily found him guilty of a criminal act! ANEM also protests against the attempts of this daily, in its issue on Wednesday, 17 June, to lessen the responsibility of its editors, journalists, and founders, by referring to the freedom of expression guarantee pledged in the constitution.

In this case, the regulations are utterly clear. Freedom of expression implies duties and responsibilities, and is necessarily subjected to limitations, prescribed by law and essential in a democratic society, inter alia, in the interest of protection of rights of others. The Public Information Act provides one such limit, taking into account the interest of protecting the rights of children, by explicitly prohibiting the publication of parts that make a minor recognizable in the information that tend to violate person's right or interest.

In article dated 17 June, "Kurir" appealed to the right of parents, whose child has been made recognizable in the information that threatened to violate his right or interest, to seek compensation of damages in a civil lawsuit, or otherwise prove that the writings were not true, and narrowing the problem of the most offensive violations of children's rights down to an individual case and common leakage of information from the police in "tavern talks", the daily seriously neglected the provisions of applicable regulations.

Existing regulations clearly specify that without the court permission, the course of the proceedings to the minors, even decisions made in the process, must not be disclosed and that even the cases, where court permission exists, must not specify the name of minors and other information which could lead to the revealing of the identity of the person in the case.

ANEM points out that the job of police is to provide protection of the rights and freedoms of all, and thus juvenile persons, and not to spread gossip around in "tavern talks", as it is the duty of the media to inform the public on matters about which the public has an interest to know, and not to stigmatize children on the basis of tavern gossips, hence challenging parents to prove that the gossip is not true in court lawsuits.

ANEM welcomes the decision of the Ministry of Culture against the managing editor of the daily to take legal actions in line with the provisions of the Public Information Act. At the same time, ANEM urges the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take appropriate measures in order to determine whether there have been any oversights by the police in the particular case, and more importantly, in order to prevent any possible future violation of children's rights by the police in exercising their jurisdiction. ANEM also demands an extensive social action and utmost engagement of all relevant authorities, media and professional organizations, organizations dealing with the protection of human rights and especially rights of children, to ensure that regulations protecting the rights of children in the Serbian society cease to be just a dead letter, and that more disregard of the law would never again lead to the humiliation of children for any reason.

ANEM expresses its full solidarity with the family of journalist Olja Beckovic, but also with all children and all families whose rights, beside basic civilization standards, media codes and existing laws, have been violated in the media.

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