Public Defender's Statement on Ethical and Legal Standards for Covering Facts of Suicides among Adolescents

The Public Defender is concerned about the coverage of the issues of adolescents at suicide risk and the facts of suicides among children in the TV promo of Rustavi 2 program “Profile".

The Public Defender considers that it is necessary to observe relevant international legal and ethical standards when covering the facts of suicides among children.

In the mentioned case, the methods of covering the facts of suicides among children is contrary to the international standards defined by articles 3 and 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which guarantees the child’s right to access to mass media information and the right to be protected from information that may hamper their psychological, social and other type of development.

The problem of covering the facts of suicides among children is reflected in the media monitoring report 2015 of Georgia’s Charter of Journalistic Ethics, according to which, coverage of suicides committed by children is among the problematic issues of ethical coverage of children's issues. As per principle 8 of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, journalists are obliged to protect child’s rights, give priority to child's best interests during professional activities, and not to prepare or publish articles or reports which can be harmful to children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the facts of suicides committed by children be covered only in extreme cases, when there is high public interest, in such a way that the deceased child is not identified, in order to protect his/her honor and dignity.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasizes the role of the media in protecting children's rights and explains that the form of covering similar facts has decisive importance. In some cases the media can strengthen stereotypical attitudes towards specific issues and make a negative impact on the public opinion. It is important the media itself not to violate the child's rights. [1]

The mentioned documents were responded by international surveys, which show that media coverage of the facts of suicides largely affects the psychological state of children at risk of committing suicide. Moreover, unethical coverage of suicides may have so-called contagious effect on children.

The Public Defender calls on the Rustavi 2 program "Profile" to refrain from covering children's suicide facts in this form, to take into account the public interest, complex nature of the issues and possible counterproductive factor.

The Public Defender also addresses other media outlets to ensure coverage of the issues of adolescents at suicide risk and the facts of children’s suicides in compliance with appropriate ethical and legal standards, as well as with child's best interests, without describing direct or indirect identification of a child and the methods of suicide.

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