|After two days of picking cotton, child laborer Clarisse Kambire |
carries a large wicker bushel of fiber from the field to a storehouse
almost a mile away. Photographer: © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
|Clarisse Kambire, 13, a child laborer, sits on a bench in the room |
where she sleeps in the home of her foster parent and his family.
Photographer: © Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
|Clarisse Kambire, right, works with other child laborers to harvest |
organic cotton grown in the fields of her farmer foster parent.
© Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Furthermore, the “girl” and her family members report that she “was woken up early one morning and asked to pose in the cotton field” by the journalist, “who introduced himself as working for an orphanage project and needed to select three children to be part of this program.”
On one point we do agree: More work is needed to ensure that children in the cotton producing communities of Burkina Faso and elsewhere enjoy their rights to protection and increased well being. As part of our ongoing work in this area, and in agreement with UNPCB, Fairtrade International has prioritised further training on child labour and child protection for its members which will begin in early 2012.
Unless the bar for journalistic integrity is exceptionally low, it is intolerable for any editor to accept a journalist's claim of six weeks investigating the subject of forced child labour on Fairtrade certified organic cotton fields in Burkina Faso when the final story is centered on assembling a few local children they assumed were under 18, including Clarisse, for a photo shoot in and around a cotton field. Not to mention Cam Simpson's UNSUBSTANTIATED claim the farmers he interviewed utilizing child labour were Fairtrade certified growers when they are clearly not. When I say unsubstantiated, the farmers were not listed with the only certifying organization in the country and the editors of Bloomberg have failed to provide me with their other sources for independent verification despite my repeated requests.
As for interviewing children, Cam Simpson has complete disregard for their rights in the name of getting a sensationalized story for corporate media. After assuming Clarisse was a minor, his failure to utilize a child-safe approach when interviewing the children in the story is readily apparent to any reader. The aforementioned guidelines from the International Federation of Journalists for protecting child rights in media is clearly laid out, to include the need to address the media's tendency toward sensationalism.
- respect for the privacy of children and protection of their identity unless it is demonstrably in the public interest;
- the need to give children access to media to express their own opinion;
- the obligation to verify information before publication;
- the need to consider the consequences of publication and to minimize harm to children.
- sexual, violent or victim-focused programming and images that are potentially damaging to children;
- stereotypes and sensational presentation of journalistic material.
If Clarisse Kambire had been 13 as the story alleges, clearly Bloomberg has protected neither her identity nor her privacy. We do hear her views, however the truthfulness of the reporting needs further investigation on behalf of Bloomberg editors since Clarisse doesn't actually work in a cotton field as the Fairtrade International investigation clearly points out (yes editors, a thorough inquiry entails more than simply asking the reporter and letting it go at that). The obligation to verify information before publication has yet to be established by Bloomberg editors who who have repeatedly refused to answer that specific inquiry. As for the consequences of publishing an evidently falsified story, I am not convinced Cam Simpson or his editors really considered it.
Page 57 of the Guidelines for Journalist and Media Professionals delineates clearly the steps to interviewing a child while respecting their rights, and on page 63 they also establish the bar for journalism:
- 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;
- give children, where possible, the right of access to media to express their own opinions without inducement of any kind;
- 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.
Regarding the photographs, both Chris Ratcliffe and Cam Simpson need to be reviewed for assembling children in the area for a staged photo shoot. This includes LYING to the children and family as reported in the Fairtrade International investigation which states, the “girl” and her family members report that she “was woken up early one morning and asked to pose in the cotton field” by the journalist, “who introduced himself as working for an orphanage project and needed to select three children to be part of this program.” Additionally when Bloomberg editors published the photos there was a blatant disregard for guarding against visually identifying the children in the publication.
Thank you for your expedient reply. Clarisse has become center stage of the investigation, and out of concern for her reported age as a minor, exactly what steps did her interviewer take in order to protect her rights as set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and to comply with the Guidelines for Journalist and Media Professionals developed by the Intentional Federation of Journalist?
I would also like to inquire again as to the verification of Fairtrade certification of the three farmers central to the story, Victorien Kamboule, Baasolokoun “Bassole” Dabire, and Louis Joseph Kambire. They were in fact, not certified as Fairtrade by the only certifying agency in the country, the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso (UNPBC). Their roster can also be independently verified by ECOCERT in Burkina Faso. The only two other sources cited are a "local cooperative leader" and a green flag in the photographed field. What additional sources can verify these farmers as Fairtrade, which is the lynch pin of your story?
To this there was no reply from Bloomberg Editors or their Spokesperson. Evidently they stand by their reporter...
Contact the Bloomberg reporter Cam Simpson and his editors Flynn McRoberts and Melissa Pozsgay regarding the falsified story of child labour in Fairtrade certified farms with questionable reporting practices and unsubstantiated linkages. If you take a stand for integrity in media, take Direct Action now:
Mitch Teberg, MA
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