LEGAL ASPECTS OF MEDIA AND CHILD PROTECTION

By Sheena Arora

Mass Media, an important stakeholder holds a significant space in civil society and contributes enormously in bringing about awareness for essential change in any society. Media has

this tremendous responsibility to let issues related to child rights – children’s safety and protection, their right to Education, their health and development and overall welfare as important questions to keep alive in public debate.

Children are the largest viewers of television and also have access to other forms of media, thus, media holds a responsibility to render proper information which is suitable for children. Child Protection means protecting and preventing children from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, violation, exploitation and neglect. Child Protection is one of the four major components of Child Rights under United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989.

India government ratified the convention in 1992. By signing the UNCRC, Indian has committed itself to ensure the children can grow up in safe and supportive environment, with access to quality education, health care, and a good standard of living.

Legal Provisions for Media Coverage:

Under Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children), 2000, publishing, disclosing the name of, address, school or any other particulars, photographs etc, which can identify a child is prohibited. Any person who contravenes the provisions shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to 25, 000 rupees.

Section 228 A IPC punishes whosoever discloses by printing or publishing the identity of    the rape victim

Section 293 IPC prohibits the sale, hire, exhibition or circulation of obscene books, print material to persons under 20 years

Section 327 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits any reporting of a court case that deals with the sexual exploitation of a child, without specific permission of the court

Immoral Trafficking Act, 1956, prohibits the publication of the name of a victim, below the age of 18 years, or the identification of place of the offence so as to protect the identity of the victim.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, prohibits publication of the name of a woman below age of 18 years

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, forbids the depiction of women in an indecent or derogatory manner in the mass media.

Also, journalists must be responsible and ought to follow the guidelines while publishing the reports relating to children and maintain standards.

There are many examples of good journalism in the recent past which has generated mass awareness around issues pertaining to child rights especially child protection. In the recent past there has been extensive Media coverage on Nithari case (2006) where innocent children were abused and brutally killed and buried, the famous Arushi and Hemraj double murder case (2008) a case of suspected honor killing, and the case of brutal rape of a 5-year-old girl in Delhi or the Kathua rape case which garnered huge public support due to the extensive media coverage. These and many others like dismal status of children living in shelter home etc

gathered tremendous media attention and somewhere very boldly questioned accountability of the decision makers.

Media and Communication systems is increasing becoming central areas of profit making in today’s modern capitalist societies. News channels certainly holds all capacities to mesmerize and influences the thought pattern of masses to such an extent that one might get filled with empathy by looking at sadden faces, abandoned children and shock struck individuals giving media bytes to innumerable humming media channel personnel. The coverage of child rights issues in our county, not all the news channels and newspaper practice ‘responsible’ journalism/reporting. Merely by not naming and blurring the picture or giving her a pseudo name does not ensure communication the right ‘news’ to the viewers.

Reporting and covering child protection issues is not merely covering a sensational news piece but it goes much beyond that. It is an act of bringing the issue of child rights and child protection in public debate and policy discourse and thus resulting in serious effort to capture the route followed to avail justice.

The issue of bringing about mass awareness around child right is a serious sustained commitment and political will. We house millions of children in our country who are malnourished, live in extremely unprotected environment, who are often abused in and are engaged in labor instead of spending their childhood in school.

There is serious challenge for modern day Media to responsibly keep taking up child rights issue and keep them alive in public discourse.

If the Media is not utilized as an instrument of social change, then change will pave its own way, which can have lethal repercussions for society”

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