Covering Communal Violence: Some Norms And Lapses

IN Media Practice | 22/04/2002
Covering Communal Violence: Some Norms And Lapses

Covering Communal Violence: Some Norms And Lapses


Some norms of professional reporting juxtaposed with instances of what we saw of media coverage from the day the incident at Godhra occurred


Extracts from RTNDA codes reprinted with permission from RTNDF website.



Television is a powerful medium in times of crisis, not a plaything to be experimented with. Have our television channel newsrooms internalised codes of ethics and professional conduct? Some of the coverage during the outbreak of communal violence in Gujarat indicated that they have not done so enough. Do they think twice before going live with breaking news? Do they apply filters?

The more communally sensitive parts of the country become, the more we need to scrutinise the care and balance with which the media reports and presents the news. Below the Hoot presents some norms of professional reporting juxtaposed with instances of what we saw of media coverage from the day the incidents at Godhra occurred.

Codes have been taken from the following:

2000 Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

All India Newspaper Editors` Conference: Code of Ethics for the Press in Reporting and Commenting on Communal Incidents. Adopted in 1968

1. (a) Treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Exercise special care when children are involved in a story and give children greater privacy protection than adults. (RTNDA)
1. (b)The greatest caution should be exercised in the selection and publication of pictures, cartoons, poems, etc. so as to avoid arousing communal passions or hatred. (AINEC)
1. (c)What we saw: Close up photographs shown of children with burns, a terrified man begging to be spared his life, television footage shown of people flinging burning torches into homes, of women gathering stones to attack neighbours with, TV and print pictures of assets of victims burning, of vehicles in which people were burnt alive, and photographs of people looting shops and showrooms.

2.(a) Names of communities should not be mentioned nor the terms "majority" and "minority" communities be ordinarily used in the course of reports. (AINEC)
2.(b) What we saw: On the first day, Star TV and Zee News at least did not identify those burned at Godhra as Hindus, and those doing the burning as Muslims. Initial reports did not name the communities. But the newspaper reports the next day made it clear who the victims were, and who the alleged

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