Stung by criticism that their coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks was
sensationalistic and endangered rescue operations, India's broadcasters have
implemented voluntary guidelines to steer coverage of any future such
India's broadcasters have adopted sweeping guidelines covering
reporting. The regulations, agreed to by the Indian National Broadcasters
Association, cover the gamut from accuracy to sting operations. But the section
receiving the most attention deals with coverage of national security
Although the association was already working on new
guidelines before November's terrorist attack on Mumbai, criticism of the live
broadcast coverage of the 60-hour siege added pressure for India's commercial
television news outlets to tone things down.
Retired Indian Chief
Justice Jagdish Saran Verma is chairman of the association's ethics and
standards authority, which drafted the regulations. He tells VOA News the strict
guidelines should forestall calls by Indian politicians and others to impose
stricter official regulations on news coverage.
"There should not be any
need for any further regulation," he said. "Self-regulation by the broadcasters,
based on these guidelines, will be sufficient."
The new broadcasters'
code says live interviews with terror suspects should not be aired and
broadcasters should not disclose details of ongoing operations involving
During the Mumbai attack, blamed on Pakistani
terrorists, Indian government officials severely criticized broadcasters here
for live coverage allegedly revealing commando positions to the gunmen inside
seized luxury hotels. One channel aired a telephone interview with a hostage
Retired Judge Verma - a champion of judicial self-regulation
during his career - says he only agreed to work with the broadcasters after
becoming convinced they were serious about enacting and enforcing
"I thought they really were sincere about it. It's only
then that I gave my consent," said Verma. "The authority which I head has the
power to impose punishment if there's any violation, even to the extent of
recommending canceling of [broadcasting] license."
Following the terror
siege in India's commercial capital, critics in the media and government here
widely condemned the around-the-clock coverage for airing unconfirmed rumors
that nearly provoked panic - showing gory scenes, as well as sensationalistic
rhetoric and military music.
That prompted India's Parliament to begin
considering establishment of a regulatory agency for the mushrooming number of
private news channels. Some TV journalists have defended their coverage, saying
the government provided little real-time information and that they face too much
competitive pressure in a 24-hour working environment.