Put children first, groups urge following news report on sexual abuse

Child rights group Protect and Save The Children also warned that children involved will be affected as their peers in school might identify them when the media shine the spotlight on their parents. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Child rights group Protect and Save The Children also warned that children involved will be affected as their peers in school might identify them when the media shine the spotlight on their parents. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — The public must prioritise children’s welfare when it comes to alleged cases of sexual abuse, several rights groups have commented today.

Following a case originally revealed by English daily The Star, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) pointed out that the identities of the children involved must be protected, since any breach of privacy can negatively affect them.

“Let us stop discussing the details of this case. All of us, including those closest to the children, have the responsibility to protect the children from breach of privacy that arises from the publication and dissemination of information that could identify the children.

“A violation of this right will have a damaging impact on the children. As members of the public, we should be mindful of the primacy of the children’s best interest and dignity when discussing such cases,” it said in a statement.

The group stressed that the focus should now be on enabling the authorities to review the investigation and ensuring access to justice without delay.

WAO was quoted and referred to by the paper as one of its sources for the report, but it clarified that it had only confirmed that the group had aided the ex-wife, and that information was disclosed with her consent.

The organisation cited Section 15 of the Child Act, which states that all particulars that could lead to the identification of any child should not be published.

Meanwhile, child rights group Protect and Save The Children also warned that children involved will be affected as their peers in school might identify them when the media shine the spotlight on their parents.

“Often, in high profile cases, we forget that children are deeply affected as the public and especially, their peers would be able to identify them as their parents are highlighted in the media,” it said.

“The children will feel extreme stress, guilt and shame for possibly causing trouble to their family. Due to the unnecessary attention on their family, the children will be severely affected emotionally and may even be bullied in schools.

“We urge everyone involved including the public to be responsible and to exercise caution; always putting the children’s welfare first,” it added.

The group’s executive director Mariza Abdul Kadir also called for more awareness among the people regarding child protection.

“Education and knowledge are the most powerful tool to prevent child sexual abuse. I encourage all to go out there, ask, and obtain knowledge on child protection, not just for your own children, but for your family, friends and the children in your daily life.

“The more we know, the more we can help,” she said.

According to a May 25 report by The Star, a former telecommunications company chief executive officer (CEO) who was reportedly arrested about two weeks ago was found to have a history of abuse and sexual misconduct that was traced as far back as 2015.  

The newspaper was quoted as saying that it had learned that 15 police reports have been filed against the CEO over the years by his ex-wife for allegedly molesting his own children.

* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.

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