The Delhi High Court today gave its nod to the guidelines for media reporting on children which stipulates various curbs including that the identity of kids be not revealed under any circumstances while covering stories of sexual offences, elopement and drug abuse.
A committee, appointed by the court in February this year, had submitted the guidelines before a bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai
"Media shall ensure that a child's identity is not revealed in any manner, including but not limited to, disclosure of personal
informations, photograph, school or locality and information of the family including their residential or official address," the committee said in its guidelines on media coverage of cases like trafficking or organized crime involving children.
The committee, comprising Principal Magistrate of the Juvenile Justice Board
(JJB), a member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), representatives of NGO, and a nominee from the Press Council of India, said the media should keep in mind the kids' privacy, dignity, physical and emotional development while covering any news involving them.
The guidelines asked the media not to sensationalise stories relating to children and to be "conscious of the pernicious consequences of disclosing or highlighting information in a sensational form and the harm it may cause to children."
"Media must ensure that due consideration is given to a child's right to privacy and to prevent the child from being exposed to anxiety, distress, trauma, social stigma, risk to life and safety and further suffering in relation to reporting or broadcasting any story on children," according to the proposed guidelines.
The bench had earlier asked the committee to frame guidelines for the media after taking a serious view of media reports disclosing the identity of a two-year-old battered child admitted in AIIMS who later died and the minor girl who brought the baby to hospital early this year. MORE
The committee also suggested that state governments as well as the central government through its various departments, including Prasar
Bharati, should give wide publicity about the guidelines related to reporting, broadcasting or publication of news on children.
Asking the media to be governed by certain principles while interviewing a child, the guidelines said it should be ensured that "the interview does not aggravate the child's situation further. The manner and content of the interview doesn't affect the child's right to privacy and the interview shall be done under the supervision and consent of the parents or legal guardian or in alternative the competent authorities.
"Frequent interviewing of a child must be avoided. His or her refusal to be interviewed must be honoured", the guidelines said.
In addition, the guidelines said the media must verify the credentials and the authority of individual or organisation whose consent is sought on behalf of the kid.
"Media must balance its responsibility to protect children from unsuitable content with the right to freedom of expression and the right to know."
"Media shall ensure that any visual showing the face of the child must be completely morphed in case where privacy is required," as per the guidelines.
The committee told the court that the compliance of the guidelines by the media would be monitored by the "Press Council of India, self-regulatory body, Ministry of I and B and inter-ministerial Committee.
Further, the committee said the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights
(NCPCR) shall file a status report regarding the compliance of the guidelines by the media.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by an advocate who, while referring to various media reports on the battered baby Falak case in January, alleged the print and the electronic media have disclosed material details of a child and other juveniles, which is in violation of Juvenile Justices Act.
The lawyer also said "India being the signatory to United Nations' Convention on Child Rights, is under obligation to ensure protection of law against any unlawful intervention into the privacy of a child or any attack on child's honour."
The child was brought to the AIIMS Trauma Centre on January 18 with severe head injury, both her arms broken, bite marks all over her body and her cheeks branded with hot iron and after more than a month-long treatment the child succumbed to injuries.
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