News channels Aaj Tak, Zee News, News 24, and India TV have been called by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) to apologise for the insensitive reporting and added sensationalising of the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput case.
NBSA represents 26 leading private television news and current affairs broadcasters -comprising 76 news and current affairs channels, in the country. They slammed the channels for violations of privacy including affecting the dignity of the deceased. They even pointed out the fact that these channels ran insensitive taglines and showed images of the actor’s corpse on national television.
The order read, “While it is the duty of the news channel to report news, which may be in the public interest and the persons being reported upon may get justice from such media reports, it is equally important to present the news in a manner which does not violate the privacy of the dead nor sensationalise a tragic incident. It is important that the dead must not be subjected to unnecessary media glare.”
NBSA also referred to Aaj Tak’s infamous ‘Hit-Wicket’ tagline stating that by doing so they have violated Clause 1 of the ‘Specific Guidelines Covering reportage’ relating to ‘accuracy’ which states, “information should be gathered first-hand from more than one source, if possible.” The self-governing authority asked Aaj Tak to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh along with the airing of an apology.
They noted, “It appears that the questions are being addressed to Sushant Singh Rajput, who is no more, therefore the taglines are offensive, violate privacy and affect the dignity of the deceased.” The note also added that the complaints state that the broadcasters should always follow the recommendations put forth by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention. These recommendations also specify that the media should educate people about suicide.
“The recommendations specify that the media should educate people about suicide; media professionals must avoid the language which sensationalises suicides; prominent placement and unnecessary stories about suicide; explicit description of the method and the suicide note used,” the note added.
The self-governing authority’s order to India Today group to pay a fine and also apologise for spreading fake news comes at a time when the media network is accused of manipulating viewership and accused in the ‘fake TRP’ scam.
During the initial days of investigations into the unnatural death of the actor, News 24 had used taglines like, “What you stood up for in your movie, you forgot on your real-life” and “Hey, why didn’t you watch your own film Sushant?”- referring to Rajput’s film Chhichhore which dealt with mental health. According to NBSA, this was a strict violation of broadcasting norms as the reportage intended to ‘sensationalise or create panic, distress or undue fear among viewers.’
The authorities also did not forget the fact the reporters from Aaj Tak had barged into Rajput’s parent’s house and went on to question various family members who were in deep shock and grief. This according to them is a gross violation of privacy norms.
Meanwhile, reporters from the ABP news channel was let off with a warning even though they too rushed to interview Rajput’s cousin. According to NBSA, the cousin had voluntarily given the interview.
(With added inputs from The Quint)
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