Focus on media reportage of traumatic incidents pertaining to children

When reporting on tragic and unfortunate incidents does the media have a right to disrespect the next of kin who are trying to grapple with a huge problem?


The Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians (SLCP) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians Child Protection and also the Sri Lanka Medical Association have issued separate press releases to underscore the importance of protecting the rights, dignity, and privacy of children in Sri Lanka when the media reports on incidents connected to trauma.  

Sensationalised reporting condemned 

The members of the Council and the Child Protection Committee of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians, together with the membership of the college, wish to submit a statement expressing our gravest concerns regarding the media (print and electronic) handling of incidents pertaining to children in the country.

The recent incident that took place on July 2, 2024, which led to the most unfortunate deaths of two young children, compels us to make this statement now and to appeal to all media organizations to refrain from sensationalising such acts. We note with utter dismay the detailed and sensationalised reporting of the said incident using CCTV coverage. The two children are easily identified in the clips shown. In trying to dramatise the incident, the rights of the children have been brutally violated and the basic principle of respecting the dead has been sadly and totally forgotten. 

Children watching such incidents are known to be traumatised. We as Paediatricians, have had to help children who have presented with behaviour changes and psychosomatic symptoms following the exposure of these young minds to detailed traumatic experiences on TV and other forms of media in the past.

In addition, does the media have a right to disrespect the next of kin who are trying to grapple with a huge problem? Should their emotions and feelings not be considered? 

 (This press release has been signed by Dr. Kosala Karunaratne (President Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians), Dr Asvini D. Fernando Chairperson Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians’ Child Protection) and members of the SLCP Committee)

Provision of privacy not honoured-SLMA

At the outset, we wish to thank all journalists, media operatives and the media portals who are performing an admirable function in engaging in the most important task to safeguard the rights of the general public when securing information.

As the leading academic medical association in this country, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) constantly observes and monitors the standards and ethical nature of presentations of information provided to the populace at large, regarding health and healthy living, through all forms of media.

In such a background, our grievous attention has been drawn to the media reporting of the most unfortunate deaths of two young school-going children over the last week or so.

The SLMA wishes to present the following observations for your urgent attention:-

The two deaths of school-going children have been reported through all forms of media during the last few days with scant respect to the privacy and human rights of individuals by sensationalising the details to secure the attention and attraction of the public towards such individual media channels. This was particularly observed through electronic and social media.

The due respect to the individual during death and the provision of privacy to the relatives during the period of grief hasn’t been honoured and afforded to all concerned by electronic and social media.

The SLMA is constrained to point out that it is the sacrosanct duty of all, in the process of reporting on deaths, suicides and attempts at taking lives, to follow internationally recognised and approved guidelines. Most unfortunately, it has been noted that the majority of media channels do not seem to follow the human, humane and ethical standards of news reporting in such ill-fated situations. 

The SLMA does reiterate that it is ever-willing and is always prepared to discuss with the media, proper reporting standards to be followed during such unfortunate occurrences and its members are also more than happy to provide the most modern state-of-the-art information on the need for media compliance with globally accepted standards.

 (The press release issued bySri Lanka Medical Association has been signed by Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama (President SLMA) and Dr. Lahiru Kodithuwakku (Hon. Secretary SLMA) 

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