AS leaking information willingly or unwillingly has become a trend in recent time, the government of India’s advisory on media dated April 1, 2010 to police is an interesting read. It might have been released on an April Fool day last year, but it’s quite relevant for non-police forces too particularly when the government has found itself in a state of helplessness in dealing with RTI and media. Here are the excerpts of the exhaustive and consolidated advisory on media policy of police, as recorded in MHA annual report, 2010-11.
* In a case such as conviction or acquittal that attracts the interest of the media, a specific time may be fixed everyday when the designated officer would make an appropriate statement on the investigation.
* In the first 48 hours there should be no unnecessary release of information except about the facts of the incident and that the investigation has been taken up.
* The general tendency to give piecemeal information/clues on a daily/regular basis, with regard to the progress/various lines of investigation, should be strongly discouraged so that the investigations are not compromised and the criminals/suspects do not take undue advantage of information shared by the Police authorities about the likely course of the investigations.
* Meticulous compliance with the legal provisions and Court guidelines regarding protection of the identity of juveniles and rape victims should be ensured, and under no circumstances should the identity of juveniles and victims in rape cases be disclosed to the media.
* Due care should be taken to ensure that there is no violation of the legal, privacy and human rights of the accused/victims.
* Arrested persons should not be paraded before the media.
* Faces of arrested persons whose Test Identification Parade is required to be conducted should not be exposed to the media.
* No opinionated and judgmental statements should be made by the police while briefing the media.
* As far as possible no interview of the accused/victims by the media should be permitted till the statements are recorded by the police.
* The professional tradecraft of policing and technical means used for the detection of criminal cases should not be disclosed as it alerts potential criminals to take appropriate precautions while planning their next crime.
* In cases where National security is at stake, no information should be shared with the media till the whole operation is over or until all the accused persons have been apprehended.
* The modus operandi of carrying out the operations should not be made public. Only the particulars of apprehended persons and details of recovery should be revealed to the media on completion of the operations.
* There should not be any violation of court directions and other guidelines issued by the authorities from time to time on this matter.
* Preferably, there should be one officer designated as the Public Relations Officer to handle the immediate information needs of all media persons and give the correct and factual position of any crime incident.* As and when instances of misreporting or incorrect reporting of facts/details pertaining to an incident or the department comes to notice, a suitable rejoinder should immediately be issued and, in more serious cases, the matter should be taken up at the appropriate levels for remedial action.