Guidelines for Journalists on Proper Interviewing a Minor Victim of Illegal Deportation/Forced Displacement

These Guidelines were developed based the analysis of both binding international treaties, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the standards established by specialized governmental and non-governmental organizations. Observance of these Guidelines will allow to prepare appropriate material, avoid retraumatization of the child and violation of the norms of national legislation and international law. When implementing the above mentioned rules the age of the child, the level of his/her intellectual and emotional development, and his/her awareness of basic social norms and concepts should be taken into account. Every time, a journalist must act responsibly and adhere to professional standards.

General Principles

  1. The key principle of the interview is to do no harm, whatever the goals pursued. The end cannot justify the means, as the interview involves respecting the best interests of the child and excluding the possibility of traumatization both during the interview and after its publication.
  2. A deported or displaced child is not a sensation, but a victim, who, in light of his age, is prone to traumatization due to repeated negative experiences, which requires a particularly caring attitude towards such a child. Conducting an interview with a deported child as soon as possible due to the urgency of the event without first assessing the risks of re-traumatization should be excluded. The obligation to observe the best interests of the child rests equally on the journalist and the legal representative of the child.
  3. Before conducting the interview, the journalist must make sure that the child has not participated in an interview regarding similar events yet. If this has already happened, the journalist should refuse to conduct the interview or assess the possibility of conducting the interview without re-traumatizing and risking losing part of important facts due to the repetition of the story, which creates a “script” in the child’s memory for future interviews.
  4. Journalists should not carry out investigative actions instead of law enforcement agencies, in particular “interrogation” of a child and identification of guilty persons, etc.
  5. In no case can a journalist distribute personalized information about the place of residence and education of a child or child’s representative. The journalist must also refrain from disseminating other information that may negatively affect the life of the child and his/her representative, lead to traumatization of the child in his/her environment.
  6. It is necessary to abandon the excessive detailing of humiliating treatment or other suffering of a person, which makes them the property of the public and forces them to relive their own humiliation.
  7. In order to communicate with children with specific (mental) diseases, it is necessary to involve a suitable specialist.

Terms of Use of the Child’s Image in the Media

  1. The journalist must obtain informed voluntary consent of the child (when possible based on child’s health and age) and child’s legal representative (it is desirable to obtain the consent of both parents/legal representatives) who acts in the best interests of the child. In the event of a conflict between the parents or other legal representatives regarding the interview of the child and the use of child’s image, further contact with the minor should be avoided.
  2. All conditions of the interview and potential risks must be explained to parents or other legal representatives without minimizing or exaggerating them.
  3. The journalist must make sure that the persons understand the motivation for participating in the interview, the right to stop the interview at any time and refuse to answer any question.
  4. Consent must be given without any reward for it as an additional incentive.
  5. With the consent of the child and at the request of the legal representatives, the journalist may use a fictitious name, blurred image, altered voice of the minor, etc.
  6. Legal representatives and the child have the right to withdraw their consent at any stage of preparation and publication of materials. The journalist is obliged to coordinate with them the publication of the prepared material and grant the right to exclude any fragment.
  7. It is important to film the child with respect for child’s dignity. A journalist must:
    • choose images based on respect for equality, solidarity and justice;
    • truthfully depict the situation both in the immediate and in the wider context;
    • avoid images and messages that potentially stereotype, sensationalize or discriminate against people, situations or places;
    • portray the situation as the characters of the story tell about it;
    • act in accordance with the highest standards in the field of human rights protection and protection of vulnerable categories of the population.

Preparation for the Interview

  1. The journalist must understand the context of the situation, have basic legal knowledge about the crime of illegal deportation and forced displacement. This will help to ask the proper questions, minimize their number and shorten the duration of the interview.
  2. The journalist must independently assess his/her own potential biases and, if necessary, transfer the interview to another journalist who will be able to follow these guidelines and adhere to the best interests of the child.
  3. The journalist must determine the purpose of the interview and the list of questions to be assessed for any risks to the child, preferably with the participation of a specialist. These questions must be shown to the child and the legal representative with the right to exclude any of them or refuse to be interviewed.
  4. A journalist should talk to the child in the presence of a legal representative or another adult whom the child trusts and who acts in the child’s best interests, while the requirement to obtain the consent of the legal representative remains mandatory.
  5. If possible, it is necessary to obtain consent for the processing and distribution of personal data and images of the child for the transfer of interviews to international judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, about which the representative and the child must be notified separately.
  6. It is necessary to limit the number of interviewers, photographers, as well as other negative influence of the chosen location. Be sure that the child is comfortable and can tell his/her story without external pressure, including from the interviewer and legal representative.
  7. Before starting the meaningful part of the interview about deportation and other abuses, the journalist should have a small talk to the child so that the child starts to feel comfortable and can trust the journalist. It will also help to understand the correctness of constructing questions based on the individuality of the child.

General Guidelines on Interviewing

  1. Make sure that the child and the legal representative know that they are talking to a journalist.
  2. During the interview, attention should be paid to the child’s right to privacy and confidentiality, to express the child’s views, to be heard and to be protected from harm and retaliation, including potential harm.
  3. Tell the story through a child’s perception, not through the lens of a legal representative. A journalist should also not be the narrator of a child’s story.
  4. Questions should be addressed to the child, not to the representative. The latter should not interfere in the answers of the minor. Make sure that the presence of legal representatives does not create discomfort for the child’s story.
  5. It is better to ask factual questions about what someone said and did than about how the child felt. A direct question about feelings can put pressure on a minor and make the child’s answers insincere.
  6. Avoid acting out: Don’t ask children to tell a story or make a comment that isn’t part of their own experience.
  7. The journalist must demonstrate readiness to listen to the child, treat child’s story with sufficient seriousness and without skepticism. The child should not be corrected or objected to.
  8. During the interview, the child’s verbal and non-verbal reactions should be monitored to adjust the content of the interview and subsequent questions.
  9. The journalist should choose the correct terminology. The concepts of “victim”, “aggressor”, “ruscist”, “deportation”, “re-education”, etc., should be avoided as well as inappropriate reactions or exclamations that push the child to provide such information as is expected of the child, and not such as he/she wants to share. The journalist should try to look at the situation as seen by the child, and also make sure that the child has the appropriate knowledge background to answer the questions.
  10. A journalist should not instruct children exactly how to answer a question or construct a question in such a way that the answer is formed in advance. It is recommended to ask general questions that give the child space for its own answer, and to exclude leading questions.
  11. Any pressure on a child is unacceptable, the minor’s opinion must be heard and taken into account every time it is expressed on an issue that concerns the child.
  12. A journalist must maintain a balance between empathy and professional distancing. In no case is it allowed to assure a minor or the child’s relatives of a favorable solution to their situation, which creates false expectations that can lead to re-traumatization.
  13. If the journalist has any doubts about the correctness of the questions asked or the further expediency of the interview, the journalist should consult a specialist or refuse to conduct or continue the interview.
  14. If, during the interview, the child or the legal representative asks to stop the interview or to remove the question, the journalist must explain the purpose of the question or find out the reason for the request to stop the interview, if this does not violate these guidelines and the best interests of the child. If the request is repeated, the interview should be stopped and the question removed. The relevant fragments of the interview are not to be distributed.
  15. At the end of the meaningful part of the interview, it is necessary to thank the child for the conversation, find out if he/she has any questions or worries, and also talk about other topics that will help the child reduce emotional experiences.

Guidelines on the Content of the Interview

  1. The circumstances under which the deportation/forced transfer took place should be clarified. It is necessary to find out whether consent was given, by whom and under what circumstances, as well as signs of a coercive environment in which it was given.
  2. It is also worth paying attention to the process of the child’s return home, in particular, through the prism of the actions of the agents of the Russian Federation.
  3. If possible, it is necessary to collect the information concerning:
    • transfer/deportation route;
    • persons who accompanied the childs during deportation, who were with the child and/or exercised control over the child (educators, guards, managers, etc.);
    • conditions in which the child was (hygiene, nutrition, etc.);
    • the child’s activities (attending lessons, their compulsoriness, free time, etc.);
    • the opportunity to maintain ties with family and representatives of Ukraine;
    • the circumstances of imposing Russian citizenship or transferring the child to Russian families.
  4. The personal data of persons who were deported/forcibly displaced with a child or who were potentially involved in committing violations of the child’s rights should be recorded. At the same time, their publication should not be mandatory, but the transfer of this information to representatives of law enforcement agencies of Ukraine and the International Criminal Court should be carried out.