The Press Council of India on Friday asked media organisations to adhere to journalistic standards, refrain from sensational reporting and not conduct a parallel trial in the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The actor was found dead in his apartment in Mumbai on June 14, in what the Mumbai Police said was a case of suicide.
The organisation said that it was distressed by the manner in which media outlets were covering Rajput’s death. “The Council has noted with distress that coverage of the alleged suicide by a film actor by many media outlets is in violation of the norms of journalistic conduct and, therefore, advises the media to adhere to the norms framed by the Press Council of India,” the organisation said in a statement.
The organisation advised media houses against reporting crime-related stories on a daily basis and said that it could affect the ongoing investigation in the case. “It is not advisable to vigorously report crime related issues on a day to day basis and comment on the evidence without ascertaining the factual matrix,” the organisation said. “Such reporting brings undue pressure in the course of fair investigation and trial.”
The Press Council of India added that the media must not give publicity to victims, witnesses and the accused in a crime. “Identification of witnesses by the media needs to be avoided as it endangers them to come under pressure from the accused or his associates as well as investigating agencies,” the organisation said.
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The organisation also asked media outlets to not conduct their own trial. “The media is advised not to conduct its own parallel trial or foretell the decision to avoid pressure during investigation and trial,” the Press Council of India said.
Several TV news channels have been targeting actor Rhea Chakraborty, who is the key accused in Rajput’s death. Chakraborty has been accused by Rajput’s family of drugging him and driving him to suicide.
In an interview to NDTV on Thursday, Chakraborty spoke of the harassment that she and her family were facing. “The witch-hunt mentality has destroyed my family’s life,” she told the news channel.
On Wednesday, the Narcotics Control Bureau registered a case against Chakraborty to investigate her alleged dealings in banned drugs. The federal anti-drugs agency is the latest to be drawn into the case involving the death of Rajput, which is already being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.
The Press Council of India also pointed out that newspapers had also been violating journalistic standards while reporting about Rajput’s death. “The norm prohibits publishing stories about suicide prominently and advises the media not to unduly repeat such stories,” the organisation said. “The media is expected not to use language which sensationalise or normalises suicides or presents it as a constructive solution to the problems. The media is advised not to use sensational headlines or use photographs, video-footage or social media links while reporting on suicide cases.”