As reporting by some media outlets about the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the related investigations has come under criticism, the Press Council of India has said that the media should not conduct its “own parallel trial” and must respect the privacy of the victim, witnesses and suspects.
“The media is advised not to conduct its own parallel trial or foretell the decision to avoid pressure during investigation and trial,” the Press Council said in an advisory issued on Friday.
It advised that the media “should not narrate the story in a manner so as to induce the general public to believe in the complicity of the person indicted” and stated that “publishing information based on gossip about the line of investigation by the official agencies on the crime committed is not desirable”.
“It is not advisable to vigorously report crime related issues on a day to day basis and comment on the evidence without ascertaining the factual matrix. Such reporting brings undue pressure in the course of fair investigation and trial,” it said.
The media, the Press Council said, “is advised to refrain from giving excessive publicity to the victim, witnesses, suspects and accused as it will amount to invasion of their privacy rights”, and that the “identification of witnesses by the media needs to be avoided as it endangers them to come under pressure from the accused or his associates as well as investigating agencies”.
Regarding the reporting around Rajput’s death, the Press Council advised the media that the “reporting of the alleged suicide by the actor by some of the newspapers is also in violation of the norms formulated by the Council for reporting on suicide”. It expected the media “not to use language which sensationalise or normalises suicides or presents it as a constructive solution to the problems” and advised it “not to use sensational headlines or use photographs, video-footage or social media links while reporting on suicide cases”.
The jurisdiction of the Press Council, which is an autonomous body attached to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is restricted to print media and news agencies. Television news has an independent self-regulatory mechanism, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, which has not issued any advisories or statements on the issue yet.
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