4. Guidelines for filming a child

Gans and Lee did talk with other journalists they knew in making this decision, though they did not consult any one set of ethical guidelines produced by a journalistic organization. Lee argued that most journalism ethics are based on legal practices or on the ethics of the particular news agency, and noted that they didn’t want to rest on a legal technicality but to instead really think through the decision on their own terms.

Watch Wilson Lee discuss how although the documentary does fight the stigma of rape, he wondered if Princess should have to take up that fight.

Wilson Lee on the stigma of rape from Emily Loewen on Vimeo.

There are, however, several ethical guidelines for journalists which address, at least in part, the issue of identifying minors who have been traumatized.

  • The Canadian Press advises against broadcasting the face of sex assault victims of any age, but includes a blanket ban on the identities of minors who are sexually assaulted. “Even where no ban is in effect, it is usually wrong to identify alleged victims of sexual assault. CP does not name minors who are victims of sexual assault, even with the consent of their parents,” says The Canadian Press Stylebook.
  • The Associated Press also warns against identifying victims of sexual assault, though not in such absolute terms. “We do not generally identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted or pre-teenage children who are accused of crimes or who are witnesses to them, except in unusual circumstances. Nor do we transmit photos or video that identify such persons. An exception would occur when an adult victim publicly identifies him/herself,” the AP’s statement of values and principles reads, without making clear what those unusual circumstances might be.
  • On interviewing children, The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has quite a comprehensive document, Putting Children in the Rights, which includes significant focus on children who have experienced some sort of trauma. It’s very first point is that “children have a right to privacy, and that this right should only be overridden where it is in a child’s own interests or in the public interest, and when permission has been given.” This would indicate that the child’s face should not be shown. But the IFJ also references the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children have a right to their name, and the IFJ suggests that journalists respect that right by naming children in circumstances where there is no harm. This would suggest that the child be identified in the film so as not to become a nameless representation of a cause.

Next: Documentary’s edge