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Media can't report on sexual assault on children without consent

Aarti Dhar

Bill prohibits comments on child, either as accused or victim of an offence, which may lower character or infringe privacy


No report shall disclose address, photograph, family details or school

For violation, Bill suggests jail for not less than one year


NEW DELHI: In an attempt to rein in the media, the draft Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, 2010 prevents reporting on any child involved in an offence without “complete and authentic” information and without the consent of the child or his or her guardian. The publisher or owner of the media or the studio or photographic facilities shall be jointly held liable for the “acts and omissions” of his employees.

The Bill, piloted by the Women and Child Development Ministry, seeks to protect children against sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, and provide for establishment of special courts for trial of such offences. The gender neutral draft describes a child as an individual under 18.

No person from any form of media or studio or photographic facilities shall, without having complete and authentic information and without the consent of the child or his or her parents or guardian, make any report or present comments on any child who may be a involved in an offence, under this proposed law, either as an accused or as victim, which may have the effect of lowering character or infringing privacy, says one of the provisions of the draft Bill.

No report in any media shall disclose, without the consent of the child or his/her parents or guardian, the address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particular which may lead to revealing the identity of the child. The Bill recommends imprisonment for not less than one year and extending up to two years with a fine or both for anyone violating the provisions.

“Media must be sensitive”

Reacting to the media-related provisions, Press Council of India Chairman G.N. Ray said the PCI as an institution did not believe in any kind of blanket gag on the media. “But it has been noticed to the dismay that media has often transgressed its limits as has been seen in the Aarushi murder case,” he told The Hindu.

“The media has to be cautioned and must be sensitive to these issues,” Justice (retd) Ray said, while pointing out that curbing media reporting was a serious issue.

Call for debate

While maintaining the dignity of the child victim is important, the misdeeds of the accused should be brought to light, says Amod Kanth, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

“There needs to be a proper debate on whether or not the media should be prohibited from reporting on sexual offences against children and the media is one good platform for doing that. We cannot prohibit a discussion on such issues in society and when a debate is initiated, some references are bound to come up.”

Pointing out that the amended Juvenile Justice Act also prohibited identification of children involved in criminal activities, Mr. Kanth said the provision, however, was not being implemented. Another issue to ponder was that of a child who was not alive, and the mention of gory details in the media to damage the reputation and dignity of the child and the reputation of the family, he said citing the Aarushi case.

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