Indian news broadcasters fix reporting guidelines

NEW DELHI: Facing criticism following the Mumbai terror coverage, Indian news broadcasters have chalked out guidelines on reporting of such events.

The regulations, outlined by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), cover a wide spectrum ranging from national security to accuracy and sting operations.

The new code says live interviews with terror suspects should not be aired by broadcasters. They should not disclose technical details of ongoing operations involving national security.

The guidelines were finalised after a meeting of NBA authority under the chairmanship of Justice (Retd) JS Verma held on 10 February.

The regulations also extend to coverage of issues relating to law and order and crime and violence. According to the guidelines, the content should not glamourise or sensationalise crime or condone criminal actions, including suicide.

Content should also not depict techniques of crime that may tempt imitation, especially with reference to terrorism and suicide. Reports on crime should not amount to prejudging or pre-deciding a matter that is, or is likely to be, sub-judice. And no publicity should be given to the accused or witnesses that may interfere in the administration of justice or be prejudicial to a fair trial.

Identities of victims should not be disclosed in cases of sexual crimes and violence on women and children. Close-ups of dead or mutilated bodies should not be shown, the guidelines state.

Violence must not be depicted solely for its own sake, or for its gratuitous exploitation or to pander to sadistic or other perverted tastes. Moreover, scenes with excessive violence or suffering such as close-up shots of persons being subject to brutality, torture or being killed and visual depiction of such matter should be avoided.

The guidelines specify that subjects promoting horror, supernatural, superstition, occultism, exorcism, divination, and the paranormal which may be frightening to children, should be avoided. And belief in superstition, occultism, exorcism, divination and the paranormal should not be promoted.

Regarding sting operations, the code states that it should only be conducted in public interest and when no other means is available to obtain the requisite information, without any illegality or inducement and subject to the legitimate right to privacy.

Broadcasters should resort to sting operations only if editorially justified, for exposing wrong-doing, particularly of the public facets of people in public life. Also no sting operation should be conducted except with the concurrence of the person overall in-charge of editorial function; and the Managing Director and/or the Chief Executive Officer of the broadcaster should also be kept fully informed of any sting operation. Further sting operations should be so conducted as to obtain 'evidence' of an offence but not to induce 'commission' of an offence.

The guidelines insist on providing privacy while reporting sensitive issues. For example, broadcasters should exercise discretion and sensitivity when reporting on distressing situations, on grief and bereavement. Also, people should not be featured in content in a manner that denigrates or discriminates against sections of the community on account of race, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation¸ occupation, religion, cultural or political beliefs. Content that would cause unwarranted distress to surviving family members, including by showing archival footage, should be avoided.

Additionally no information relating to the location of a person's home or family should be disclosed without permission from the concerned person. Surreptitious recording of any person or event should only be made without committing any illegality and if editorially justified. And, finally, interviews of the injured, victims or grieving persons should be conducted only with prior consent of the persons or where applicable their guardian.

The guidelines also specify on how to report on sex and nudity and how to protect children's interest while airing content which might disturb or alarm them.

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