The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act lays down that the media should not disclose the names, addresses or schools of juveniles in conflict with the law or that of a child in need of care and protection, which would lead to their identification. The exception, to identification of a juvenile or child in need of care and protection, is when it is in the interest of the child. The media is prohibited from disclosing the identity of the child in such situations.
Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that:
No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 40 of the Convention, states that the privacy of a child accused of infringing penal law should be protected at all stages of the proceedings.
Almost all media, print and broadcast, fail to observe these guidelines. Prashant Kulkarni (name changed), who was a photographer with Reuters a few years ago, said that in Reuters photographs taken by photojournalists could not be altered or edited, to ensure authenticity.
As far as taking photographs of certain vulnerable persons is concerned, he admitted to photographing street children who are drug addicts on the streets of Mumbai. The photographs were published by Reuters. However, when he was on an assignment for an NGO working with children, the NGO cautioned him about photographing children who are drug addicts, to protect their identity. Similarly, identity of HIV and AIDS patients, including children, should be protected and not revealed. Children affected with HIV and AIDS should not be identified by name or photograph, even if consent has been granted by the minor’s parents/guardian.
As a rule, Kulkarni said, he does not seek consent of individuals when he is taking their photographs, if they are in a public place. If they do not object, the assumption is that they are comfortable with being photographed. The PCI norms do not expressly provide that consent of a person should be sought. But, journalists are expected to exercise restraint in certain situations. Likewise, identifying juveniles in conflict with law is restricted. This includes taking photographs of juveniles that would lead to their identification.
Kulkarni, who extensively covered the Bombay train blasts in 2006, explains, "At the time of the Bombay train explosions, I avoided taking pictures that were gory or where dead people could be identified. However, I did take photographs of those injured in the blast and were getting treated in government hospitals. I did not expressly seek their consent. They were aware of being photographed. That is the rule I have applied, even when I was on an assignment in West Africa. I have never been on an assignment in Europe, so am not sure whether I would have applied the same rule of thumb. Nonetheless, now as a seasoned photographer, I would refrain from taking pictures of children who are drug addicts."