MHA to crack whip on ‘media friendly’ officers

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Balwant Singh Bhau

Union Home Ministry is set to crack whip on police officers who are supposed to maintain distance from media but often leak vital information with their ‘media friends’.

According to a report available with Newspoint Bureau, MHA has taken serious note of the close relationship of some police officers with media and decided to crack whip. “At times, vital information is leaked. This is not advisable. Special cells should be created to deal with media and in no case, should top officers share vital information with media persons especially in a state like Jammu and Kashmir where even minute details matter,” says the reports of MHA.

From top officers to most junior ranking officials, Union Home Ministry has taken note of their close relationship with media. They have even found some of the officers leaking top secret information to media and on certain occasions even sharing inputs in various cases with press, much before the case is solved. The officials are likely to be reprimanded for not adhering to advisory of union home ministry.

According to the report, J&K police officials alongwith officials of other states have been asked that while sharing information with the public through the media, adequate precautions need to be taken to ensure that only authentic and appropriate information as is professionally necessary is shared without hampering the process of investigation or issues of legal/privacy rights of the accused/victims and matters of strategic and national interest.

They have further said that only designated officers should disseminate information to the media on major crime and law and order incidents, important detections, recoveries and other notable achievements of the police.  Union Home Ministry has added that police officers should confine their briefings to the essential facts and not rush to press with half-baked, speculative or unconfirmed information about ongoing investigations.

Ministry has said that the briefing should normally be done only at the registration, arrest, charge-sheeting of the case and at the final outcome of case such as conviction/acquittal. In a case 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, the ministry maintains.

They have further specifically been told that in the first 48 hours, there should be no unnecessary release of information except about facts of the incident and that the investigation has been taken up. Ministry has said that general tendency to give piecemeal information on a regular basis with regard to 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 investigation.

They have been further told that 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 legal, privacy and human rights of the accused/victims.

In a major recommendation, union home ministry has said that arrested persons should not be paraded before the media. They have further added that 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 accused/victims by media should be permitted till the statements are recorded by police. 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.

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 correct and factual position of any crime incident.

 

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