The National Broadcasting Association (NBA) on December 18 announced the much awaited new guidelines for the electronic media to be followed in times of crisis like the situation that arose during the Mumbai terror attacks. As per the new guidelines, there would be a complete ban on live TV reporting of terrorist attacks.
Concerned about the situation where critical operational information was divulged by the media, the new NBA guidelines prohibit revealing anything about rescue operations relating to armed conflict, and that internal disturbance and other similar situations should be tested on the touchstone of public interest.
Moreover, news channels cannot divulge details during an ongoing operation such as the number of hostages or their identities. The repeated screening of gory images showing blood or badly injured people has also been banned.
The broadcasters body also said that media should also avoid contact with victims or security personal during the course of incident.
NBA added that there should not be any facilitation to the terrorists’ cause by media’s insistence on live reporting. NBA chief, retired Justice JS Verma, said, “Media plays an important role in the society. Especially, Indian media’s role is laudable. However, it is better to self-regulate rather than having someone else to tell you what to do.”
Verma insisted, “The regulations have nothing to do with the Mumbai terror attacks. We had contemplated these regulations much before the 26/11 attacks. Unfortunately, the Mumbai incident happened, so we had to wait a bit more.”
What if any channel fails to follow these guidelines? Verma replied, “The editors have agreed with the guidelines that have been set by NBA, so they will be governed by what they have decided to follow themselves. However, if they do fail to follow these guidelines, they will be penalised to the extent that their uplinking permission will be canceled.”
This was the first such step to help the media self-regulate, he pointed out.
In an official announcement, Annie Joseph, Secretary-General of the News Broadcasters Association, said, “Our guidelines have previously referred to national security, but the Mumbai episode was unprecedented.”
She said that although the NBA could not force member stations to comply with the rules, it was ‘in the news channels interest’ to follow them.
Meanwhile, a press release issued on December 17, 2008, by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said, “Keeping in mind the public interest and interest of national security, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting had directed all the news and current affairs TV channels to ensure that the coverage of the incidents relating to the recent terrorists attack in Mumbai does not focus on or report the location, strength, movement strategy or any related operations being followed by the security forces engaging with the terrorists as it may jeopardise their position.”
“The channels had also been directed that close-ups and images of blood or seriously wounded or disfigured limbs or bodies or images of dead or seriously wounded people, which may seriously distress a substantial number of viewers or cause panic and incite further violence may not be carried,” the release added.
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