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West African journalists form network to protect children

June 19, 2015 By Abibatu Kamara in Lome, Togo

Some 15 journalists from ECOWAS member countries have formed a network to act together to protect children and give them access to the media to express their views and opinions on issues affecting them.

Even though all ECOWAS member countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Right and Welfare of the Child, there are children in the sub-region who still do not enjoy the rights they are supposed to have.

With support from Save the Children, the Coalition on the Protection of Children in West Africa hosted the journalists at the Ibis Hotel in Lome, Togo, to get them informed and act together for the protection and promotion of children’s rights in West Africa.

At the end of the three-day conference, participants came up with a declaration pledging their commitment to give children the right to access the media to express their opinion without discrimination or inducement of any kind, bearing in mind their age and maturity. Also, to ensure that the information provided by a child is confirmed to be accurate and special care is taken to make sure that any such confirmation does not put child informants at risk.

Recognizing that children occupy a privileged and unique position in our societies, the participants agreed to protect the image of children in the treatment of sensitive information that could affect their dignity and integrity; discourage the promotion of harmful traditional and cultural practices affecting children through awareness creation and advocacy; and to bring to light all violations of the rights of children in our societies.

Togolese Minister of Social Action and of Women and Literacy Promotion, Mrs. Dede Ahoeafa Ekoue, and the Minister of Communication, Culture Arts and Civic Training, Madam Koumealo  Anate – who both witnessed the opening ceremony of the conference – explained the strategies their  government has put in place to address the protection and promotion of children.

They informed the meeting that the Togolese government has signed up to treaties and conventions protecting the welfare of children and that their government is aware of these and they are in full support to make these international agreements come into fruition.

President of the Coalition, Sidikou Moussa, said the objectives of the conference were to strengthen the knowledge of media actors regarding children’s rights, enabling the creation of a federating platform for media actors for a better federation of actions in favour of children’s protection in West Africa.

The conference, facilitated by Adodo Marck Chile, Njundu Drammeh and Sidikou Moussa, looked at the background of human rights and overview of the grounding principles of child rights; the mechanisms of child rights, introduction to the role of the mass media in child rights and protection, major steps in the production of information, types and nature of information regarding children, fight against juvenile marriage, and the adoption of the declaration.

Speaking on behalf of the participants, ace Sierra Leonean female journalist, Madam Abibatu Kamara, thanked the organizers for selecting them to participate in the conference which, she said, has spurred them to report on issues affecting children.

Ms. Kamara, who is the Financial Secretary of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), said the media in Sierra Leone has been effective in giving children the opportunity to express their views and problems in the media though there still remain challenges in the treatment and production of the information provided by the children.