"Unacceptable details and photos": "Keep in mind this child's future"

Abducted 12-year-old girl Monika K. was found after several days of searching, and some media outlets reported "as if it were a reality, not a kidnapping"

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
Ilustracija: Depositphotos/zharate1
Ilustracija: Depositphotos/zharate1

Following the publication of the girl's personal information, her photographs and health information in some media, the Ministry of Information reacted, as well as the profession.

State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information Aleksandar Gajovic appealed to the editors on the occasion of today's front pages of print media, texts and television reports about the case of the girl Monika K, that they should show more restraint, respecting the fact that it is a minor who has the right to protection and privacy.

In a written statement, Gajovic points out that his intention was not to exert influence on the editorial policy of the media, concept and content.

"I would like to kindly ask editors and journalists to bear in mind the gravity of everything that has happened to Monika and her parents in the past days, that is, to bear in mind the possible consequences that a way of reporting such as today can have on this girl's emotional, social and intellectual development, given that she is so young", Gajovic says.

The Secretary of State for Information expressed his belief that the responsible institutions would bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.

Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Coordination body for gender equality Zorana Mihajlovic said that the manner in which some media reported on the abduction of Monika was unacceptable and urged them to respect Monika's right to privacy and a normal life.

"The best news I heard yesterday was that little girl Monika, whom police were searching for around the clock, was found alive. To the greatest joy of her family and, I believe, all citizens of Serbia. On the other hand, the way the media reports on her and her current condition, with the publication of photographs and monstrous details of the abduction, is unacceptable", Mihajlovic said in a statement.

She pointed out that by disclosing details of Monika's health condition, the media exposed the abduction victim to new trauma, and urged journalists to refrain from sensational reporting and to pay due attention to the girl who had experienced major trauma.

"Publishing a photo of the newly found girl, who appeared on the front pages, citing the horrific details that the child survived does not help anyone, it only adds new pain to Monika and her family," she said.

She states that everyone should be aware that this destroys the girl's right to have a normal life tomorrow and to be a normal child, just like any other.

She wished Monika a speedy recovery.

Press Council urged all journalists and editors of print and online media to stop violating the privacy and dignity of Monika K. and her family.

The unethical behavior of the media in this case, as the Council stated, culminated in the publication of photographs of the girl in an ambulance, as well as details of her health and injuries.

According to the Serbian Code of Journalists, a journalist is required to respect "the privacy, dignity and integrity of the people he reports, and in particular to protect the rights and dignity of children and victims of crime."

"A journalist must be aware of the power of the media and the gravity of the possible consequences on the victim, as well as the perpetrator, and should not pass on information falling within the victim's privacy domain - even if obtained from the competent state authorities, in this case by doctors and police", the statement said.

According to the statement, the girl's identity unfortunately had to be disclosed when the search for her began, but the moment she was found, the need for it ceased and there was no longer any justification for reporting on her and her family's privacy.

"This is why we ask the media to keep in mind the future of this child, to show at least some genuine empathy for her and her family and not allow the girl to be additionally traumatized", the Press Council said. Serbian Association of Journalists (UNS) member Dragana Bjelica told Beta news that media reported on the abduction of a girl Monika K. from Nis, "as if it was a reality, not a kidnapping."

Bjelica declared it inadmissible to state in the media the medical record of the victim, as well as to publish her pictures after she was found on Sunday.

According to her, the kidnapping case was such that it was necessary to publish a picture of the victim in the media in order to engage more people and help locate the girl, but stressed that "the victim is underage."

"Some newspaper reporters should be asked if they would report in the same way if, God forbid, their child is in question. I am sure they would not," Bjelica said, commenting on the front page of some tabloids for Monday, featuring a girl on a stretcher entering the Clinical Center in Nis.

"The disclosure of personal information such as medical records, especially of a 12-year-old child, cannot be justified by the public interest. On the contrary, it is a gross disregard for the privacy and dignity of a minor victim", a UNS statement said.

The UNS has called on editors and the media to refrain from further presenting private photographs and data that may be detrimental to the psycho-physical development and life of the girl finally found yesterday.

The statement said the media was of "immense importance" in cases of abduction, especially of children, when they were expected to release as much relevant information as possible, including photographs, to assist in the early detection of abductions.

UNS has called on editors and the media to refrain from further presenting private photographs and data that may be detrimental to the psycho-physical development and life of the girl finally found yesterday.


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