Guidance for media reporting on child abuse and neglect Information and advice for journalists reporting cases of abuse in Northern Ireland

The media plays a vital role in reporting on child abuse and neglect and the operation of the child protection system. However any media scrutiny of a situation involving the death or injury of a child should also respect the rights and dignity of the children and the families involved.

This guidance aims to help journalists report child abuse in a way that will help the public better understand the issues involved. It provides background information about child protection and child neglect. It explains why reporting child abuse cases in the media needs to be done with care and sensitivity. It includes guidance for agencies working with children around engaging with the media.

Authors: Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers, BASPCAN, National Union of Journalists, and NSPCC.

Staff writing

Good practice guidelines for reporting stories about children

The International Federation of Journalists (2009) has adopted a set of guidelines that underpin high journalistic standards to promote the sensitive reporting of children’s issues. This includes advice that journalists and media organisations should: 

  • Strive for standards of excellence in terms of accuracy and sensitivity when reporting on issues involving children.
  • Avoid programming and publication of images which intrude upon the media space of children with information which is damaging to them.
  • Avoid the use of stereotypes and sensational presentation to promote journalistic material involving children.
  • Consider carefully the consequences of publication of any material concerning children and shall minimise harm to children.
  • Guard against visually or otherwise identifying children unless it is demonstrably in the public interest.
  • Ensure independent verification of information provided by children and take special care to ensure that verification takes place without putting child informants at risk.
  • Avoid the use of sexualised images of children.
  • Use fair, open and straight forward methods for obtaining pictures and, where possible obtain them with the knowledge and consent of children or a responsible adult, guardian or carer.
  • Verify the credentials of any organisation purporting to speak for or to represent the interests of children.
  • Not make payment to children for material involving the welfare of children or to parents or guardians of children unless it is demonstrably in the interest of the child.

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  1. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) (2009) IFJ guidelines on children reporting. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).