The Indian Express’s July 14 article, “The Ukhrul Unheard,” reported on a place where “20 of the 51 children rescued from two illegal children’s homes,” were living. Medical records for many of the children indicate sexual abuse, and a few of the children have made abuse or rape accusations, the Indian Express noted.
The article reports on interviews with some of the children about their time living in a children’s home. One girl describes an attempted assault and accuses the man in charge of the home of “sleeping with some” of the girls. The Indian Express identified the girl by including her full name, how old she was when she moved to the home, how old she is now, and the name of her roommate.
The Indian Express’ report also included a photo of three of the girls, but they weren’t easily identifiable as the photo showed their backs.
According to The Nagaland Post, “child rights workers and social activists” complained about the Indian Express coverage.
Ukhrul District Alliance for Child Rights’s Thotchuila Hongray called for the Indian Express to protect the children’s identity. Likewise, Ukhrul District Journalists’ Association’s president Sothing Shimray reminded that ethical standards call for the protection of the children’s identity. And the Nagaland Post suggested that the article could violate the Indian Penal Code and UNICEF’s guidelines.
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The Indian Penal Code prohibits publishing the identity of sexual assault victims. Earlier this year, iMediaEthics highlighted another media ethics case that potentially violated the Indian Penal Code: India’s Zee News interview with the “only witness” of a gang rape victim.
The Delhi Police said they would be charging Zee News for identifying the witness, but as iMediaEthics noted at the time, in the interview, even though the witness’s face was shown, he wasn’t named.
UNICEF’s Guidelines for Reporting on Children advise:
“Always change the name and obscure the visual identity of any child who is identified as: a. A victim of sexual abuse or exploitation; “
Most journalism standards, iMediaEthics notes, call for the protection of the identities of sexual assault victims in general, and minor-aged victims of sexual abuses, especially.
iMediaEthics reached out to The Indian Express seeking response to the criticism of its naming the victims and asking why it decided to do so. We’ll update with any response.