The News Broadcasting Standards Authority has directed news channels, Aaj Tak, Zee News, News 24 and India TV to air an apology for insensitive reporting and sensationalizing the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and imposes Rupees One Lakh Fine.
NBSA has condemned Aaj Tak, Zee News and News 24 channels for running insensitive “Tag Lines” that had the result of infringing the privacy and affecting the dignity of the deceased. While India TV with Aaj Tak has been found at fault of showing images of Rajput’s corpse. Inter alia, it has directed Aaj Tak and India TV to apologise for publicizing images of Rajput’s corpse.
The NBSA observed the following
- 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 neither 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.
- Undoubtedly, the media has the right to freedom of speech and expression. It also cannot be doubted that when a well known public personality like Sushant Singh Rajput commits suicide, not only it becomes big news, but also a matter of discussion which can revolve around various complaints and hypothesis. Therefore, telecast of such programmes, per se, can neither be discouraged nor criticized. The freedom of speech and expression comprises not only the right to express, publish and propagate information through circulation but also to receive information. By disseminating information, media is facilitating the citizenry to avail this right.
- Recalling Aaj Tak’s notorious “Hit-Wicket” tagline, the authority stated, “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.”
- Whereas for Zee News tagline, ‘Patna ka Sushant, Mumbai me fail kyu?’ it said that, “the Tagline…tends to give the impression that committing suicide is a failure and therefore the Tagline violates the privacy and dignity of the deceased. There may be various reasons for suicide but the impression created was that a small-town boy committed suicide in a metro city which was his “failure”.” Likewise, Taglines run by News 24 were “offensive and affect the dignity of the deceased” by signifying that Sushant had forgotten the anti-suicide message given by him in his movie Chhichhore.
- If the programme carried by Aaj Tak, Zee News and News 24 were without such Taglines, it may not have violated the guidelines relating to privacy, sensationalisation and dignity of the dead. However, since the programmes carried the aforementioned Taglines, NBSA is of the view that the said broadcasters have violated the Specific Guideline Covering Reportage. Allegedly, Aaj Tak broadcasted photographs of late Mr Rajput’s corpse from his bedroom and it explicitly described the method used along with the colour of the cloth used for strangulation. India TV is also alleged to have repeatedly described in detail the colour of the lips of the body and the marks on Rajput’s neck. It also allegedly showed the body covered in a cloth being carried out of the apartment, repeatedly.
- The authority sated that this is “egregious violation” of the NBSA Guidelines, that are
- Reporting should not sensationalise or create panic, distress or undue fear among viewers.
- Dead must be treated with respect. Close-ups of dead or mutilated bodies should not be shown.
- Guidelines relating to Impartiality, Objectivity and Fairness
- Broadcasters should exercise discretion and sensitivity when reporting on distressing situations, on grief and bereavement.
- Content should not glamorize or sensationalize crime or condone criminal actions, including suicide.
- The authority further stated that the broadcaster should have conducted its due diligence and verification prior to telecasting/uploading the tweets and not subsequently, which due diligence is a basic tenet and requirement of journalistic ethics and telecasting the tweets without verification had the tendency of spreading disinformation amongst the public. NBSA found that the broadcaster had violated the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage relating to Accuracy which states that:
- Information should be gathered first-hand from more than one source, if possible.
- Reports received from news-agencies should be attributed and where possible be verified.
- Allegations should be reported accurately as made.
- Errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest, giving sufficient prominence to the broadcast of the correct version of fact(s).