July 16, 2012
Ethical Questions Raised as Molestation of Young Indian Girl is Captured on Camera
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in India in calling for full disclosure of the circumstances in which a shocking incident of the public molestation of a young girl by a mob of more than twenty men was captured on video camera by a news channel reporter.
Video images of the incident, which occurred late evening on July 9 in the city of Guwahati in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, soon went viral on the web, provoking mass public outrage and questions over the role of the news reporter in the incident.
The Journalists’ Union of Assam (JUA), a constituent unit of the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has reacted sharply to the incident, and called on all journalists to “adhere to the norms of journalistic conduct set by the Press Council of India and International Federation of Journalists”.
“Journalists are members of civil society and it is their duty to observe decency and not be mere spectators when they encounter any preventable crime”, said JUA President Geetartha Pathak. “Media persons should understand that human lives and honour are more important than increasing television ratings or circulation”.
The IFJ has learned that human rights groups in Assam state have analysed the entire video recording of the incident and concluded that a reporter with the NewsLive channel may have provoked and instigated the attack. There are reports that the video features some of the twenty strong mob striking a pose for the camera and at least one occasion when the camera focuses on the face of the victim and a microphone is thrust forward and inquiries are made about her name and identity. Perpetrators of the crime are also seen brushing the hair off the victim’s face so that her identity could be captured on camera.
The news channel management has defended the reporter’s conduct, on the grounds that his video footage has helped local police in identifying the perpetrators of the crime. The management claims that the reporter happened to be passing by the area at the time of the incident and reacted as any newsperson would, summoning the sole cameraman on duty at the news channel’s nearby office.
The reporter has since resigned from his job with the channel, which is owned by a powerful local politician and minister in the Assam state cabinet.
“We are shocked and distressed at this incident and extend our solidarity to the victim as she seeks to recover from the trauma”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific. “We call on all concerned journalists to join the public debate that arises from this incident”.
“The pervasive spread of new digital technologies and the rapid and largely unregulated growth of the visual media, make a full and authoritative restatement of the norms of journalistic conduct in situations involving crime and the violation of basic human rights, an absolute imperative”.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
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