Even as India watched with horror the blasts in the National Capital on September 13, a young balloon seller emerged as one of the key eyewitnesses of the men who had planted one of the bombs. However, media’s hounding of the boy has earned the I&B Ministry’s ire, which has issued an advisory on October 8 to the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to direct channels not to telecast any news item that may endanger the life of a person.
The advisory has been issued following objections raised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on the repeated telecast of an interview of Rahul, the 12-year balloon seller. The NCPCR has found the act of the media insensitive and negligent, which endangered the life of the key witness, with no one to protect or advise him of the serious consequences. It also observed that media had exhibited reckless behaviour, and instead of having concern for the boy’s safety, they had allowed his identity to be exhibited to the nation in their attempt to encash on the tragedy.
Reacting to the development, Jawahar Goel, Additional Vice Chairman, DishTV, and President, IBF, said, “We have not received any notification yet. The Government may have taken this step in the interest of the nation, but there has to be a balance between what is required for the knowledge of the general public and freedom of speech.”
Annie Joseph, Secretary General, NBA, said, “Now that the NBA Code of Ethics and Regulations have come into effect from October 2, 2008, the members have been advised to adhere to the regulations while delivering content.”
Sandhya Bajaj, Member, NCPCR, said, “The media should have been more responsible and realised that by revealing the little boy’s identity they were putting his life at risk. If at all they had to telecast the information given by the boy, they should have insured that his face and identity were hidden as he is an innocent little boy and cannot protect himself.”
Bajaj further said, “We welcome this move by the I&B Ministry. It was a desired action and I hope that the media will understand the importance of this sensitive issue and be more careful in the future.”
Meanwhile, the I&B Ministry’s advisory also asks IBF and NBA to ensure that their member channels exercised restraint in selection of their content for broadcast.