The attention of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka Secretariat (PCCSL) has been drawn to the publication of photographs of rape victims, identifying them and their places of residence and giving excessive details in reporting the crime and subsequent court proceedings.
Complaints have been received by the PCCSL Secretariat objecting to what the complainants regard as insensitive coverage of these cases, particularly the Punguduthivu rape and murder of a schoolgirl.
The PCCSL Secretariat has referred these complaints to the editors of the concerned newspapers subscribing to the self-regulatory system with reference to the provisions of the Editor’s Code on General Reporting, Writing and Privacy.
These provisions state
Article 06. GENERAL REPORTING and WRITING sub clause 6.1: In dealing with social issues of a particularly shocking or emotionally painful nature – such as atrocity, violence, drug abuse, brutality, sadism, sexual salacity and obscenity – the press should take special care to present facts, opinions, photographs and graphics with due sensitivity and discretion, subject to its duty to publish in the public interest.
Furthermore in sub clause 6.2: It states: In reporting accounts of crime or criminal case, publications shall not, unless it is both legally permitted and in the public interest – i. Name victims of sex crimes.
The onus of showing how the ‘Public Interest’ was served is with the newspaper.
Article 07 on PRIVACY sub-clause 7.1 states as follows; The press shall exercise particular care to respect the private and family lives of individuals, their home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Intrusions on this right to privacy without consent could be justified only by some over-riding public interest.
Sub clause 7.3: Particular care should be taken to ensure that in cases involving grief or shock, inquiries and approaches are handled with sensitivity and discretion.
In the above circumstances, the PCCSL Secretariat has requested editors to ensure that their journalists uphold the Editors’ Code.
The PCCSL is a voluntary independent self-regulatory mechanism set up 14-years ago by The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association to promote self-regulation in the free media.