INSENSITIVE JOURNALISM: A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

The basic goal of journalism is to serve the individuals with the news and data on public matters in a reasonable, precise, impartial, modest way and language. Media has the power to ensure that the issues and grievances of the different sections of the society are reached to the government.  The tragic news of the demise of Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput was trailed by a commotion for the lamentable way the news was communicated by different conventional news channels of the nation. It shows the inhumane desire for constant media coverage in degrading ways only for TRPs. The unexpected loss of a young brilliant actor was not desensitizing enough; Indian media aggravated it with their harsh inclusion of the matter. A father who had quite recently lost his young child had a mic pushed into his face. Pictures of Sushant’s body were shared alongside realistic subtleties of how he took his life without even blurring his face. This shows how Indian media demonstrated its lack of ability to find ways only for TRP.
The late actor was called a ‘hit wicket’ by a main Hindi news channel. Another called him as ‘failed in Mumbai’ passing a decision on his vocation and his life. One of the headlines even went to the extent of saying ‘How did the cinema Dhoni get ‘out’ in real life?’ The steady drop of news channels from platform to receive information to obstinate mouthpieces is something we all very well know. But these media organizations do not have the right to form opinions about an individual, that too at his demise. This is not the first instance of such insensitive coverage by media. The same thing happened at the demise of the late actress, Sridevi. This is not only restricted to public figures. There was a case of a child murdered by his classmate in Ryan International School. The media bumped into the house of the child and asked several questions to his crying mother who was not even in a stable condition to answer the questions after the demise of her young child. Another recent instance of this is the way media is covering the current coronavirus pandemic. It is not showing the exact facts but only creating dread and fear in the minds of people for the purpose of raising TRP. The inclination of media houses towards certain political parties and business houses have given rise to biased-journalism. [1]
 

Impact of Insensitive coverage by media

Coverage of crime brings with it coverage of victims, frequently in dehumanizing ways and with traumatizing results.”[2]
 
The recent coverage of the late actor’s demise shows how media is intensifying the problems of people instead of treating them with humanity. Such news is shown for a group of people at the expense of another person’s privacy and that too only for the sake of channel’s TRP. When our media is overflowed with the thought process of making a protected spot to discuss the sensitive issue of mental health, at the same time its insensitive coverage leads to harassment. This is not only an attack on the victim’s privacy but also the absence of reasonableness and respect for the family he has deserted. Insensitive media coverage could hinder the survivor’s ability to grieve normally because sensational reporting would make the homicide appear worse than they really were or alternatively give a negative portrait of the deceased. [3]
 
While media inclusion is significant for Right to information, simultaneously we have to set a flimsy line before we attack somebody’s personal space and deny them of their Right to Privacy under Article 21. Today, any individual who makes any remark is accessible on the web and its depiction as hypotheses in journalistic compositions hang until the end of time. This stays on the web, despite the fact that occasions may pass and time changes. Another example of insensible media coverage is the recent act of cruelty on the pregnant elephant in a district at Kerala by making him eat firecrackers. Many social media platforms tried to give the incident a communal angle by politicizing it.
There are harsh effects of news reporting on TV. There is a term called copy-cat suicide or suicide contagion.
The latest incident of a student of 10th class from UP, who was an enthusiastic fan of the late actor, Sushant Singh Rajput did suicide and died after realizing that his favourite on-screen actor did as such and wrote in his letter that ‘He Can Do It Why Can’t I.’ So, weak people get activated with such news and harm themselves when they are presented to such news or when somebody close to them has ended it all. In this way, the media has a commitment to present their news in the way it is not activating. Certain people in society get easily affected by the news. Also, we as viewers have the responsibility to change this scenario by not paying heed to such insensible news thereby lowering the TRP of such channels. This will help in improving the content and manner of coverage by the Indian media.
 

Laws related to media coverage

The News Broadcasting Standard Authority (NSBA) has rules to not record or meet and ask questions from any disturbed person. The Press Council Guidelines and the NBSA have given a rundown of rules on explicit points which involve guidelines for coverage of instances of rape, or guidelines to forestall any communal touch in covering any crime or any disturbance.
The journalists today should stick to such rules when covering news. The freedom of the press must be safeguarded and ensured not just from outside impedance yet similarly from those within. The command of the Press Council of India like other alike bodies over the world is to explicitly advance the norms of the media by setting up a set of principles or code of conduct. 
In a well-known case in 2008, the court laid down the guidelines under the Press Council of India.
1. The media should confirm that their news is objective and authentic.
2. They should guarantee precise language and phrasing while reporting.
3. They should follow the Rules for visual media 
4. The Rules for sub-editors and other staff at the newsroom.
5. While reporting, the journalists should keep the personal identity and other such stuff confidential and should always have the consent of the victim or his relatives.
6. Prevent any form of discrimination
7. The reporting should be gender-sensitive.
8. Guarantee well-balanced and sensible reporting of news.
Guidelines have been laid down regarding what not to do in cases of reporting suicide under the Press Council of India for newspapers and other platforms:-
1. Use of insensitive headings covering the news.
2. Print news about suicide significantly and not repeat it again and again.
3. Describe the particulars of how it was committed.
4. Provide with the specifics of the victim and the location.
5. Use of photos or videos of the suicide.
There are five standards of ethical Journalism-accuracy; independence; impartiality; humanity; and accountability. These are the basic ‘code of ethics’ that needs to be followed in Journalism.
 
The media has the responsibility of maintaining the confidentiality of the victims. As per Indian Penal Code, “Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.”[4]
 
The standards of press council discuss coverage of crime or suicide but when we investigate the implementation of such rules, the press council can’t do substantially more than just dubiously objecting the activities of the telecom stations. There’s no approval or punishment it can force. 
This is something that ought to be presented for media experts and they ought to be authorized and under record of these administrative bodies. In the event that they violated standards, a move could then be made against them. The inclusion of media news channels isn’t directed by any legal body. The News Broadcasters Association oversees the private news channels. Its ward is just limited to its some specific news channel. So any objection that can be made to these stations can just relate to those specific channels and not for some other channel. We have to bring news channels and TV media coverage either inside the domain of the Press Council of India or whatever other administrative body which can carefully uphold these measures. It’s high time we reevaluated insensitivity and called out people as well as media outlets that treat the news like this so irresponsibly. [5]
 

Conclusion

The Indian Media also has the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) but it needs to understand that it cannot exploit this right for the sake of raising TRP’s. A large number of individuals take a gander at them so they have an additional duty but this doesn’t give them the freedom to state anything they need to despite the fact that they have a more prominent right of freedom of speech and expression since they are representing people in general. They should follow the ethics and guidelines to comprehend their duty.

References

1.Indian Media: Then…. Now… and Later ,
Available at https://fourthambit.com/unsupported_browser accessed on 27.06.2020.
2.Carter, Media Insensitivity to Victims of Violence
3.Leah E. Daigle, Victimology: A Text/Reader, SAGE Publications,2017.pg. 394
Section 228A of the The Indian Penal Code,1860.
4.Gariyashi Bhuyan, Pics Shared, Family Harassed; Sushant’s Death Reminds Us
BY- Divya Vishal
NUSRL (N.L.U.,Ranchi)

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