In pop culture, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ is a phrase that has come to be associated with the fictional superhero Spider-Man. It is obvious enough what it implies— to be responsible.
In the context of the internet and its users— to apply maturity and caution given the wide reach and choice presented by the World Wide Web. It can spoil image and destroy lives just as quickly as it provides the opportunity to make it big. It is a double-edged sword.
Humans though have a tendency to disregard the consequences. Social media is one example where, unconfirmed information, sensitive and personal in nature, are frequently circulated in disregard of the law and someone else’s privacy.
It, thus, became imperative to enact laws governing internet/social media use. However, laws get broken as much as it gets made leaving the onus on sensitization and awareness.
Talking of awareness, let’s shift the focus to women and children and crime and stigma. It demands sensitivity alongwith a certain degree of confidentiality given the associated social stigma.
Nagaland clearly lags in the sensitivity and awareness department vis-à-vis women and children falling victim to crime, especially sexual in nature, and also women and children in conflict with the law. The recent incident of the murder and suspected rape a 17 year-old girl in Dimapur has been one such example.
Issuing public statements, including those routed through the press, censuring rape and murder is well justified but ignorance of the law and lack of sensitivity comes to fore when the statements contain the name and village of the victim.
Personal details of the victim (and of the accused, if the person is a minor or a woman) get edited out in the newsroom but on most occasions, the original statements make it to social media before it reaches the messenger.
The supportive intent is clear, but make sure it is done with sensitivity.
The unbridled practice of individuals and organizations making it a custom to include name and origin is more a disservice to the family. Not only is it insensitive, it is punishable and embarrassingly displays ignorance of frequently quoted legal guidelines.
For the press, in addition to the existing laws, the Press Council of India has laid down clear guidelines to apply caution and sensitivity in news reportage dealing with women and children, who are victims of crime and also women and children in conflict with the law. Further, a Supreme Court directive bars the press from disclosing or even hinting, in any manner, as to indicate the victim’s identity.
In general, including government authorities, there is IPC 228A — Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences etc – besides other Acts. As stated by the Commissioner of Police, Dimapur, recently, the law forbids the public disclosure of the identity (in any form or media) of women and children falling victim to crime, especially sexual in nature and murder.
The law, press and police have come a long way since the days when it was considered appropriate to publicly disclose details relating to crime against women and children. There was a time when the police would freely disclose the details of the victims to the press, but today, it has changed. Such information is kept confidential even from the press.
Ethos change and evolve so does law and sentiments.
The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org