Journalistic activity and protection of minors: Treviso Charter revised

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INTRODUCTION

The Treviso Charter enters the globalized world of the third millennium

The Treviso Charter, deontological code and document launched and passed in 1990 by the Order of Journalists and the FNSI (National Federation of Italian Press) - in agreement with the Telefono Azzurro ("Blue Telephone" helpline for children) and public bodies and institutions of the city of Treviso - draws its inspiration from the principles and values of our Constitutional Charter, from the UN Convention of 1998 on the rights of children and from the European Directives.

The Treviso Charter constitutes a binding rule of self-regulation for Italian journalists, as well as an ideal and practical guide for the whole professional category of communicators.

After the birth of the Treviso Charter on October 10th, 1990, supplemented by an extra deontological document - the Treviso Handbook '95 - the subject of the protection of minors has been the center of numerous institutional and associative initiatives in the media, with the creation of self-regulation codes issued by several worker categories.

Television, press, cinema, advertisement and the Internet are media well integrated in society, to the point that they play a crucial role of information besides that of formation, especially towards young generations.

It is therefore necessary, with no possibility of any extension, to start specific actions for a better knowledge and a more rigorous observance of the Law and of the self-regulation codes, through the tools already prescribed by the Treviso Charter of 1990 and by the Handbook of 1995, which have already recorded many positive effects during these fifteen years.

The revision of the Treviso Charter, 15 years after its birth, becomes thus a natural operative consequence and a coherent deontological commitment taken by the Order of Journalists' National Council, in the light of the new rising realities characterizing the world of information of the third millennium and the cultural and social sceneries of United Europe.

TREVISO CHARTER

The Order of Journalists and FNSI (National Federation of Italian Press), in the belief that information must draw its inspiration from the respect of the principles and values on which our Constitutional Charter is based, and in particular:

the recognition that the supreme value of the government and community experience is the human individual, with its inviolable rights that must be not only guaranteed, but also developed, helping every human being to overcome the negative conditions which in fact prevent the full expression of their personality;
the commitment of the whole Republic, in its various institutional articulations, to protect childhood and youth, and put into effect the right to education and an appropriate human growth;

declare to take on the principles reasserted by the UN Convention of 1989 on the rights of the child and in the European Conventions which deal with the subject, providing for the care to guarantee the harmonious development of the minor's individuality in relation to his/her life and maturation process, and in particular:

that the child must grow up in an understanding atmosphere and that "for their necessities of physical and mental development they need specific care and assistance";
that in all actions regarding minors "the major interest of the child" must constitute an object of primary consideration and that therefore all other interests must be submitted to this one;
that no child will have to be exposed to arbitrary or illegal interferences in their privacy nor to illicit attempts at their honour and reputation;
that the regulations which safeguard the privacy of minors are based on the assumption that the representation of their life facts may be harmful to them. This risk may not hold when the journalistic report puts a positive emphasis on the minor and/or the family environment in which they are growing up;
that the State must encourage the development of appropriate codes of conduct so to protect the child from information and multimedia messages detrimental to their psycho-physical wellbeing;
that the State must take appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children against any form of violence, abuse, exploitation, and damage.

The Order of Journalists and NFIP are aware of the fact that the fundamental right to information may encounter limits when it finds itself in conflict with the rights of subjects in the need of privileged guardianship. Therefore, with the right to report in relation to facts and responsibilities being understood, a balance with the rights of the minor and a specific, superior guardianship of their psycho-physical, emotional, and relational integrity must be pursued.


Therefore, we hereby quote the rules prescribed by the laws in force.

On the basis of these premises and of the deontological rules in Article 2 of the institutive laws of the Order of Journalists, along with what is expressed in the deontological code enclosed to the Code on the protection of personal data (Legislative Decree196/2003), in order to develop on the subject of minors information more functional to the growth of a childhood and teens culture, the Order of Journalists and the NFIP determine the following rules, binding for the information workers:
journalists must comply with the entire penal, civil and administrative regulation which regulates the practice of information and judicial reporting in regard to minors, in particular those involved in prosecutions;
the anonymity of minors involved in news cases must be guaranteed, also if these do not have a criminal relevance but are harmful to their persona, as perpetrator, victim, or witness; this warrant is not valid whenever the publication is intended to put positive emphasis on the minor and/or on the family and social environment in which they are growing up;
likewise the publishing of all elements which may easily lead to their identification must be avoided, such as the personal particulars of their parents, the home or residence address, the school, the parish church or brotherhood attended, and any other indication or element: pictures and unshielded television footage, on-line messages and images which may contribute to their identification. Similar behaviour must be observed for episodes of paedophilia, abuses and crimes of all kinds;

as regards cases of foster care or adoption and those of separated or divorced parents, with the right to report and the right of critique on the judicial authority's decisions and the usefulness of articles or inquiries being understood, the anonymity of the minor must be safeguarded in these cases in order not to affect on the harmonious development of their persona, avoiding sensationalism and any form of speculation;
children must not be interviewed or engaged in television or radio transmissions that may be harmful to their dignity or trouble their psycho-physical balance, nor must they be involved in forms of communication harmful to the development of their persona, regardless of a possible consent on the part of the parents;
in the case of injurious or self-injurious behaviours - suicides, rash gestures, running away from home, micro-criminality, etc. - initiated by minors, with the right to report and the individuation of responsibilities being understood, it is necessary not to exaggerate the small details which may have the effects of suggestion and provoke emulation;
in the case of minors who are ill, wounded, disadvantaged or in difficulty, it is necessary to pay special attention and sensitivity when spreading images and stories to avoid to perpetrate, in the name of a pitiful sentiment, a sensationalism that ends up being an exploitation of the individual;
if, in the interest of the minor - for instance in cases of kidnapped or lost children - the publication of personal data and the diffusion of images are considered indispensable, in any case the opinion of parents and of competent authorities must be taken into account;
special attention must be paid towards manipulation that may result from adults interested in exploiting, in their own interest, the image, the activity and the persona of the minor;
such rules must also be applied to on-line, multimedia journalism, and other forms of journalistic communication which use innovative technological instruments of which the prolonged availability in time must considered;
all journalists are bound to observe such rules in order not to incur the sanctions prescribed by the institutive law of the Order.
The Order of Journalists and NFIP recommend directors and all editors to open with the readers a dialog which is able to go beyond simple information; they stress the desirability, in cases of weak subjects, of the closest possible examination of the information, with cross-validation of the sources, with the contribution of experts, favouring signed services when possible, and in any case ensuring an approach to the subject of childhood not limited to the exceptionality of sensational cases, but which goes in depth - using inquiries, special programs, debates - with the condition of the minor and their difficulties in everyday life.

Order of Journalist and NFIP are committed, within their respective competences:

to spot tools and occasions which enable a better professional culture;
to highlight in the preparation texts for the professional examination the themes of the information on minors and the ways to represent childhood;
to invite the Regional Councils of the Order of Journalists and the Regional Press Associations, with the possible contribution of other subjects of the professional category, to promote study seminars on the representation of weak subjects;
to activate a direct connection with the various professions committed to the protection and development of children and teenagers;
to involve the institutional subjects called to the guardianship of minors;
to consolidate the relationship of collaboration with the organs in charge of the obedience to the laws and rules as regards radio, television, and multimedia;
to desire on the part of all communicators' associations, a common commitment to safeguard the interest of childhood in our country;
to carry on with the collaboration with the FIEG for a common commitment in defence of the rights of the minor;
to call to the attention of those responsible for radio and television networks, the providers, the operators of all multimedia forms the rights of the minor also in entertainment and advertisement broadcasting, and in the content of websites.

EFFECTIVE NORMS

The Order of Journalists and the NFIP are committed to:

a)promote the Observatory prescribed by the Treviso Charter 1990;

b)diffuse the existing regulation;

c)contemplate the additional sanction of the disciplinary measure's publication;

d)involve the journalism schools as centres of awareness of the problems inherent to minors.