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>Featured >AIBD-UNICEF Panel Discussion on Representation of Children in Malaysian Media, A Way Forward

AIBD-UNICEF Panel Discussion on Representation of Children in Malaysian Media, A Way Forward

By Lee Lai Mee, Chief Compliance Officer


The depiction of children in the media can be misleading as children are often shown in negative stereotypes. Children should be portrayed in a way that does not impede their rights and be seen as individuals. Media reporting on children and young people should never put them at risk.


Realising this call, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working tirelessly for child rights and for the well-being of every child.  It has developed principles and guidelines to help journalists to report on children’s issues in a way that enables them to serve the public interest without compromising the rights of children.


As part of its 75th anniversary celebration this year, UNICEF Malaysia joined hands with AIBD to organise a Panel Discussion on Representation of Children in Malaysian media, a way forward on 23 September 2021. It was live streamed over FB and other social media and joined by over 75 local participants in Malaysia, comprising producers, reporters, journalists and editors from RTM, BERNAMA, ASTRO, Media Prima, Radio Stations; Print Media -STAR, Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today ;  lecturers and their media students from INTI University, Taylor University, UNISEL, IACT, UMS and BAC; NGOs- Shelter Home, Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ),  and Independent Writers, Journalists, Social Media Editors, Freelance Reporter.


The aim of the discussion was to engage media on responsible reporting of children and vulnerable young people when they are involved in News stories. Moderated by Director AIBD, Ms Philomena Gnanapragasam and joined by panel speakers- Prof. Dato Noor Aziah, Commissioner from Suhakam; Mr Ashwad Ismail, Head & Chief-Editor, ASTRO AWANI; Mr Jamaluddin Muhammad, Deputy  Editor-in Chief (International News Services) BERNAMA; and Ms Ng Miao Ling, Media Strengthening Officer, Centre for Independent Journalism(CIJ).



In his opening speech, Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam, said this event besides, being able to bring the children upfront in the media, it was a celebration of partnership with AIBD for signing an MOU in advocating for the rights of children. Dr Rashed spoke of how the role of media has evolved in great importance and size that could reach out to the population and shaped their minds including children.


Prof Dato Noor Aziah, the Commissioner for Children, SUHAKAM, in her presentation-Media Reporting on Children: Are our Children Protected, spoke on empowering & protecting the children, highlighted the Laws of Child Rights Act that are already in place and roles of the Office of Children Commissioner (OCC) in SUHAKAM in championing this cause. She reminded everyone that all children have a right to privacy and information and most of all, media has a role to play in promoting the rights of children and their sufferings but must always respect the child`s dignity and identity.



Mr Ashwad Ismail, Head and Editor-in Chief,  ASTRO AWANI spoke on the balancing act of media  when reporting children in the News media that is led by the notion  if it  bleeds, it leads. It is at times, lacking in reporting and often compromising on privacy and children mental well being as there is no clarity in defining a digital citizen privacy.He believed media needs to empathise more, listern to children,portray positive news and be credible gatekeepers battling between ratings and creating safe-empowered ecosystem.



Ms Ng Miao Ling, the Media Strengthening Officer at the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), spoke on Problems Of Child Reporting In Malaysia, What`s Next?. She highlighted the worrying trends of unethical reporting of children in Malaysia via Clickbaits, the key to viral Journalism where media outlets would do to get more attention to their news and as a source for more subscription and advertisements but with least concern for how their distorted focus of stories would affect the child.



She added that media has a transformative role in shaping public perception on what to write responsibly on children.



Mr Jamaluddin Muhammad, Deputy Editor- in Chief (International News Services), BERNAMA shared his thoughts on code of ethics in media. BERNAMA uses reliable sources of news and spoke of the issues they focus for the children including health, education, safety, cybercrimes and SDGs 2030 Agenda on children. The greatest challenge today is how to present the story/message to the children in the simplest form, train the journalists in balance reporting and ensure to have a strong editorial policy that upholds code of ethics even though under pressure to make news attractive.