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Jammu and Kashmir Police ban LIVE coverage of encounters – Impact on freedom of press?

Jammu and Kashmir Police ban LIVE coverage of encounters – Impact on freedom of press?

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || Social Media & Internal Security

Why in the news?

Media freedom has been frequently subject to restrictions in Kashmir and journalists often find themselves summoned to police stations, booked under FIRs and manhandled by the forces.

Introduction:

The media acts as a watchdog for the public good in a democracy. It serves as a people’s agency for informing them about national and international events, which is critical in a democracy.

In democratic countries, the media is regarded as the “Fourth Pillar,” alongside the legislature, executive branch, and judiciary. The role it played during the freedom struggle, politically educating millions of Indians who joined the leaders in their war against British imperialism, demonstrates its significance in affecting readers. From the days of press censorship during the Emergency in 1975 to being dominant in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the role of the media in Indian democracy has changed dramatically.

Present Context:

  • Earlier this month police in Kashmir, operating under the direct control of India’s Home Affairs Ministry, warned that they would charge photojournalists and media professionals who approach the scene of gunbattles, cover clashes between police and protesters or publish news that promotes “anti-national sentiment.“
  • The announcement comes amid reports of violence against photographers who had gathered to document a similar confrontation.
  • The international watchdog group released its World Press Freedom Index 2021. It called the situation in Kashmir “very worrying,” adding that “reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries” in the region.

Terrorism and media coverage:

  • News coverage of terrorism needs to be thoughtful and responsible, and it needs to consider the essential elements of terrorism and the way terrorism operates to achieve its purpose.
  • News coverage of terrorism also raises ethical issues concerning the spreading of stereotypes and prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech. Fears of terrorism are often linked to many concerns.

Impact of terrorism and media coverage:

  • To avoid acting in the interests of terrorists by adding to the feeling of public fear which terrorist acts can create or by offering terrorists a platform for publicity;
  • To refrain from publishing shocking pictures or disseminating images of terrorist acts which violate the privacy and human dignity of victims or contribute to increase the terrorising effect of such acts on the public as well as on the victims and their families;
  • To avoid aggravating, through their news and comments, the societal tensions underlying terrorism, and in particular to refrain from disseminating any kind of hate speech

What should be the role of media in the situation of terror attacks?

  • The media need to be accountable for the consequences of their coverage.
  • The media should not jeopardize human life.
  • The media should not glorify acts of terror.
  • The media should refrain from sensational and panicky headlines, from inflammatory catchwords, and from needless repletion of photos from bloody scenes
  • Terrorism should be explicitly condemned for its brutality and violent, indiscriminate nature
  • The media must not pay or be paid for covering terrorist incidents.
  • The media are advised not to take upon themselves to mediate between the terrorists and the government.
  • The media are expected to refrain from making dangerous speculations about the terrorists’ plans, government response, hostages’ messages, and other matters.
  • Media professionals should have background information about the terrorists they are required to cover. They should do research prior to their coverage.
  • The media should not broadcast live terrorist incidents that include hostage taking. This is in order not to jeopardize human life and not to impede a government’s attempts to rescue the hijacked.
  • The area in which the terrorist incident takes place should not be open for anybody who testifies that he or she is a journalist. Only senior and experienced reporters should be allowed in. Junior and inexperienced reporters should undergo a learning process during which they fathom the complexities involved. Adequate training is a necessary precondition

The Need for Media Ethics:

  • Paid news, media trials, non-issues being viewed as real news while real issues are ignored, news being doctored and reality fabrication for profit and political gain, false news, and yellow journalism are all major concerns that influence the public and have an effect on national security. Fear mongering in the media, for example, has resulted in mob lynchings and assaults on migrants population.
  • In the absence of impartial journalism, people’s perceptions and attitudes are influenced by the false presentation of facts in society. Eg. Hathras case
  • The pursuit of sensationalism and higher TRP rates, as seen in India’s coverage of the 26/11 terrorist attacks, put the country’s internal security at risk. Despite SC guidelines, sensationalism-driven reporting undermined the identities of rape victims and survivors.
  • Trial by media violates due process of law and can erode public confidence in government agencies such as the judiciary.
  • Paid and false news can influence public opinion and incite animosity, abuse, and discord within society’s various communities.
  • The influence of media has expanded dramatically as a result of the introduction of social media and technological advancements. Its scope and influence on public opinion have made it even more important to maintain objectivity and non-partisanship, which necessitates the application of journalistic ethics.

Legality associated with media coverage:

  • Although the Indian legal system does not explicitly protect press freedom, it is impliedly protected by Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, which states: “All people shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.”
  • Press freedom is not unrestricted. A law may only enforce certain limitations on the exercise of this right that are specified in article 19(2), which are as follows: –
    • Concerns about India’s sovereignty and integrity, the state’s stability, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, slander, or incitement to an offence

Steps that needed to be taken before covering sensitive issue:

  • Coverage is to be tested on the ‘touchstone of public interest,’ and must be factually accurate and objective.
  • There should be no live reporting that “facilitates publicity of any terrorist or militant outfit, its ideology or tends to evoke sympathy towards or glamorise their cause.”
  • During live hostage situations and rescues, no details of pending rescue operations should be given or broadcast regarding methods or personnel.
  • Respect should be shown to the dead and no gory visuals should be shown on TV.
  • Reporters should refrain from being in live, direct contact with victims, security forces, technical personnel or perpetrators.
  • Networks should refrain from continuous/unnecessary broadcast of archival footage that may agitate the viewers. (If any such footage is shown, it should clearly indicate ‘file,’ with date and time.)

Conclusion:

In developing countries like India, the media have a great responsibility to fight backward ideas such as casteism and communalism and help the people in their struggle against poverty and other social evils. Hence, having journalistic ethics in place becomes very important. It is important that the media stick to the core principles like truth and accuracy, transparency, independence, fairness and impartiality, responsibility and fair play.

Mains oriented question:

Media plays a very important role in democracy and if the media don’t play their responsibility, consequences can be threatening for the peace of the nation and democracy?