The Thorny Issue of Politicians, Minors and Journalists: Legality and Ethics in Press Photography

Carlos Maciá-Barber

Abstract

Legislation and the recommendations at the highest authorities protect the right of minors (in Spain children under eighteen) to their own image and condemn any violation of this fundamental right (the Spanish Constitution, UNO, UNICEF). Revered institutions, such as the Ombudsman or the public prosecutor’s office in Spain, follow these dictates. Journalistic codes of ethics, whether international or of professional bodies or trade unions, provide reporters with guidelines for the proper treatment in the news of photographic material showing minors. Yet at the same time the widespread diffusion in the Spanish and international press of images in which minors appear next to statesmen and leaders or are seen participating in events of an unequivocally political or ideological nature (electoral campaigns, voting at elections, ceremonies to mark the assumption of office, demonstrations and marches) is infamous. Although sometimes these minors are the children of the newsworthy individual or are related to that person, in the majority of cases they are simply anonymous infants, children or adolescents. Their presence, far from being supplementary or circumstantial, responds to carefully planned strategies of political marketing or the opportunistic exploitation of unforeseen events. Either way, they are instances of the undeniable manipulation of news information against the public interest, in which the public themselves are, unfortunately, complicit along with journalists.

Keywords

Journalistic deontology; right to one's own image; minor; self-regulation; politics; photography; press

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