It is widely believed that a journalist exposes the wrong doings in a society or government. He has got the pen or the camera to write or to shoot the pictures. If he is able to do that and that turns to be correct the person gets exposed and the people say oh what a good job done.
But what if the information turns out to be wrong, in that case imagine the harm and injustice done to the person against whom a wrong report is written. Generally the police has unlimited powers in case of criminal complaint.
It can raid, detain or even arrest anybody only on doubt. This power was vested in police by the British who wanted to subjugate the colonized Indians.
Since most of the laws were formed during the British Raj, hence the police continue to enjoy them. But the press is not police. Press is not investigative officer. It is not even a judge who can pronounce a judgement against anybody.
That is where the responsibilities of the reporters come into play. No journalist is supposed to defame, character assassinate any innocent person. That is why every reporter must confirm and reconfirm any negative information about any person, howsoever small or big he might be.
But what is seen in the Indian context that a reporter gets away with murder meaning first the press publishes anything about anybody and then not even apologizes when found wrong. Only because either most of the people about whom such stories are written are generally wrong or they fear that if they will go to court some other thing might come out of the cupboard against them.
That is why not many cases have reached to their legal conclusion. The only exception which is generally quoted is a case filed by the then chief minister of Orissa J.B. Patnaik who had filed a one crore suit against Times of India publication Illustrated Weekly of India for publishing a report that he was indulging in unnatural relationship. The case was tried and in an out of court settlement the publication printed an apology very prominently.
However, the responsibilities of a journalist towards society, nation and to the people at large immense. For example he has to be careful while reporting matters regarding the national defence and security.
He can’t take any friendly country head on. Similarly while dealing with not so friendly countries likes Pakistan and China he has to be double sure. Though he would have an easy access to their embassies in Delhi but he should not give the impression that he is working for their interest rather than our own.
In the course of his work he might stumble upon delicate information which might be sensational in nature and also be interesting to read but one should be careful that it might jeopardize national security.
A reporter has to be responsible while talking about the religious and communal sentiments of people. In a Hindu majority country like ours the minority communities are bound to feel secure.
Hindus generally don’t mind critical writings about their own religion or community but the same is not the case about other sects and groupings. There have been riot like situation when some short story against a minority community ignited volatile situations.
Recently Hindustan Times published a story about a school boy who was using his website for pornographic messages. His identity was disclosed and he overnight became a subject of ridicule because of this report. Such things should be avoided.
A journalist has to be responsible while reporting about elections. He shouldn’t take sides for any consideration, cash and kind. Similarly he should not plant stories favoring or opposing one party or the other. Such trends are on the increase these days.
There are certain unwritten codes of conduct while reporting communal riots, rape cases and where ever the respect and dignity of women are involved. It is expected that the names of the women concerned will not be published.
But the press indirectly mentions about a majority or minority community while reporting riots and give hints about the identity of the women concerned.
Of late sex has become a very popular subject. There is a plethora of magazines like Fantasy, Debonair etc. many a times police raid and confiscate its copies. Though moral values have been diluted and there is a considerable liberalism in our thoughts but still one should be careful while writing in these magazines as impressionable and gullible minds could be easily influenced.
There is an obvious gender bias in our male dominated society and women are projected in bad light. As weaker sex, as an object of ornamentation. Even their anatomy is widely used in advertisements or editorial copy as a subject of lewd comments in order to attract male readers.
There is also a tendency to project woman as an inferior gender which can’t match the prowess or capability of the opposite gender. Such reporting has to be curbed.