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Press Release

Fact-finding team gets no evidence of abetment by media persons

Press Statement : New Delhi: 30 August, 2010

Gujaratself-immolation issue

Taking serious view of the incident of self-immolation at Unjha of Mehsana district in Gujarat on 13th August, 2010 and role of two media persons as alleged by the local police which registered a First Information Report (FIR) against them on August 15, 2010, the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) decided to constitute a fact-finding committee to go into the details of the said incident and report those facts to the BEA. Subsequently a team of Gujaratbased senior TV journalists, headed by Dhimant Purohit was formed.

The Committee’s terms of reference were to:-

  • To ascertain whether there was any culpability on the part of the two media persons in question.
  • If so, whether it was a criminal culpability and/or a professional lapse. The team itself evolved its methodology to conduct the investigation.

As reported in a section of media, the police of Unjha police station in Mehsana district of Gujarat had registered a case of abetment against two stringers on charge of provoking one Kalpesh Mistry to immolate himself. Mistry died with 90 per cent burns. Two days later the police registered a case of abetment against the two media persons on the basis of a complaint by one Bhuraji Thakore, whose tea-shop has remained located inside the police station campus for the past several years. Bhuraji makes tea for police personnel of the Thana and serves them tea. 

The team visited the place of occurrence, talked to a number of persons who could throw light on the pre- and post-event situation.

The Committee submitted its 11-page report in which it has found no evidence of any kind of provocation or abetment against the two stringers. The Committee gave its observations and recommendations in its report.

The Committee has based its conclusion on certain unimpeachable evidences like dying declaration, gap between date of occurrence and date of registering of a case of abetment against the two media persons, the fact that tea-shop is situated in police station premises and the manner in which the complainant and his family sustain themselves.

Evidences:  

  • There is no mention of the media persons in the dying declaration before none other than an executive magistrate. Instead he accused the police for taking such a drastic step. 
  • FIR was lodged after 48 hours against the two media persons and that too by a tea vendor located in the police station premises.
  • The spot of crime is not visible from the place where tea vendor claims to have positioned himself and witnessed the immolation.
  • The police records show the three calls were made within one-and-a-half hours of the incident– first two by victim himself and the last by the reporters. No one can provoke a person into committing immolation in such a short span and that too when the caller himself had been making two first calls and the third and last one was made by the reporter to know the location.

It is also observed that both media persons have not even informed their assignment desk nor had they taken any prior permission for the shoot. It may be noted here that they had enough time to communicate with their head offices. On the part of media persons, it was also unethical to shoot the process, instead of saving the victim.

Recommendations

·       It should be made mandatory for the media persons to inform police as soon as they come to know of any such act which is a serious offence in the eyes of law. Section 39 of Cr.P.C. should be circulated to field staff across the country.

·       It should also be made mandatory for the field reporters to inform their headquarters prior to the coverage of any such happening and take proper guidance.

·       As a policy news channels should not show images of self-immolation. Once this happens, the question of shooting such kind of sequences will not arise at all.

·       Regular training session (at least once in a year) of the stringers, reporters & camera persons should be held at the bureau level, in the presences of senior editorial heads. This will make them sensitive enough towards their role and responsibility and the policies of channels.

·       Measures should be taken to sensitize media as a whole that human life is more important than any of the stories.

01.01.2012. 00:20

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