Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code makes disclosure of the identity of a rape victim punishable. In the recent Aarushi Talwar murder case and the rape of an international student studying at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) the media frenzy compromised the privacy of the TISS victim and besmirched the character of the dead person. In the TISS case, the media did not reveal the name of the girl, but revealed the name of the university and the course she was pursuing, which is in violation of the PCI norms. In addition to revealing names of individuals, the PCI norms expressly states that visual representation in moments of personal grief should be avoided. In the Aarushi murder case, the media repeatedly violated this norm.
The media in both cases spent enough newsprint speculating about the crimes. Abhinav Pandey (name changed), a senior journalist reporting on crime, agrees that the media crossed its boundaries in the TISS case by reporting sordid details of how the rape took place. "Names of victims of sexual crime cannot be reported. In fact, in many instances the place of stay and any college affiliation should also be avoided, as they could be easily identified. Explicit details of the offence drawn from the statement given by the victim to the police are irrelevant to the investigation or to the public at large. Similarly, names of minors and pictures, including those of juveniles, have to be safeguarded."
"Crime reporters receive most of their stories from the police. Therefore, one has to be careful before publishing the story. At times in the rigour of competitive journalism, if you decide to publish an unverified story, as a good journalist you should present a counter-point. As a seasoned journalist it is easy to sense when a story is being planted by the police. If you still want to carry the story, one has to be careful not to taint the character of a person," he adds.
"For instance, in my reporting if I find that the information will not add to the investigation, I will not include it in my copy. Last year, we had anonymous letters being circulated among crime reporters which alleged corruption among senior IPS officers. Instead of publishing the information contained in those letters with the names of the IPS officers, we published a story on corruption and cronyism on IPS officers. In the Faheem Ansari matter, who was an accused in the 26/11 trial, I had received his email account password. Accessing his account also amounts to violation of privacy. But, we only published the communication between him and some handlers in Pakistan, which we knew would have an impact on the investigation. Our job requires us to share information in the public domain, sometimes we would violate privacy. Nonetheless, one has to be cautious."