Stung by Mumbai criticism, broadcasters unveil self-regulation guidelines

December 18th, 2008 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) No live reporting of hostage crises, avoiding live contact with victims, withholding sensitive information on rescue operations - these were some of the guidelines unveiled by India’s News Broadcasters Association Thursday in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack. The self-regulation guidelines for telecast of sensitive events come after media coverage of the 60-hour terror strike in Mumbai saw scathing criticism from the public and the government, which even threatened to impose an emergency protocol.

Although the broadcasters’ body had started formulating such guidelines much before the 26/11 attack, leading broadcasters were forced to quicken the process after the event.

The guidelines include a self-imposed restraint by broadcasters not to disclose details of hostages and withholding sensitive information on rescue operations.

The broadcasters have also been asked to avoid live contact with victims and with security personnel engaged in security operations.

The guidelines also urge broadcasters to exercise their judgment by not airing details of identity and number of hostages and refrain from reporting or commentary that gives the impression of sympathizing with terrorists.

Unveiling the guidelines at a news conference, former Chief Justice J.S. Verma asked the powerful to exercise restraint.

“The judiciary and the media have become powerful organs. Once you become powerful, you must know your limits,” Verma, who heads the News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority, said.

“Self-regulation is a requirement which everyone who has considerable power must exercise. Nobody likes to be told what to do,” Verma told reporters while explaining the rationale for self-regulation guidelines.

The guidelines were finalised Wednesday and are aimed at ensuring that the reporting of sensitive situations like the Mumbai attacks does not jeopardise the security of the nation and is not offensive to public taste.

The guidelines, also referred to as “emergency protocol” in media circles, are similar to the advisories issued to TV channels by the information and broadcasting ministry during and after the Mumbai terror attacks.

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