Whose honour safe in media hands?
There is no gainsaying the fact that the cut-throat competition among our media organs is neither in its own interest nor that of the people. There is a tendency to generate a media hype on any issue and event it can lay its hands on. Sensationalism seems to have become its lifeline. That adds to their TRP and the circulation.
A smear campaign, obviously at the behest of some MNCs, was leashed against Baba Ramdev’s Patanjaliyog Baba had been leading a vigorous campaign against foreign products by MNCs and some popular soft drink brands. The first shot was hurled by former MP Brinda Karat who exploited her relations with NDTV to the full. First, the issue of exploitation of people working there was raised. That flopped. Then was raised a great hue and cry alleging Baba’s medicines contained bone content and animal oil. A number of discussions and debates were organized by various media channels and print media to run down Baba. Ultimately, the then Congress government in Uttarakhand declared that laboratory tests got conducted by it had disproved the allegations against Ramdev medicines. But, surprisingly, the doyen of news channels, Mr. Prannoy Roy of NDTV suppressed this truth from his viewers.
That speaks high of the absence of media accountability towards its readers and viewers. Not only were they fed on false information and biased views, in the process Baba Ramdev’s reputation and medicines too remained suspect for some time. Who is to be blamed? None has the moral courage to accept responsibility for this malicious campaign based on falsehood.
There is no doubt media did play a great role in preventing denial of justice in Jessica Lall murder case. But for the media, the guilty would have got scot free. Yet, that does not give it the right to put anybody in the dock without first verifying the facts against a person.
The Arushi murder case is one instance. Its trial stands vitiated only because of the overheat generated by media. Channel after channel and newspaper after newspaper put question marks on the way the investigation was progressing giving rise to a new theory, new leads to the story every other day. After about four years of investigation and various theories the case stands where it started. Things came to such a pass that the investigating agency filed a closure report saying the parents remained the prime suspects though it had no evidence against them. When the court refused to accept the plea, the CBI took a u-turn saying it has a foolproof case against them. Now wait and watch for the final outcome which may take years.
Latest is the case of two BJP MLA of Gujarat allegedly caught viewing pornographic material while attending the Assembly session. Some media persons branded it “porngate” and declared the two guilty. They wanted the head of these alleged accused. On March 23 both were found not guilty of the ‘crime’ after an examination by experts of the evidence against them.
Therefore the question remains: Should our media not be responsible? Should it have the license to declare anybody guilty or innocent without going into the evidence against the individuals(s) and without giving the accused the opportunity to prove their innocence? Our media is guilty of taking sides — either rejecting or disbelieving the other side of story. The media trial is alright, but, at the same time, it should never be summary and one sided. Media does not only usurp the right to be the investigator but also to be the final judge.
Further, who will compensate the innocent duo who feeling embarrassed had to keep themselves out of public gaze for about four days because of the media channel coverage of their ‘misdeeds’ twenty-four hours of the day. Media wanted them to be most contemptuously thrown out of the house, expelled from the party and even debarred from contesting any election in future. The vituperatives hurled at them have inflicted a deep injury to their reputation and caused mental torture. Some self-righteous may still maintain that the ruling party has manipulated their innocence. But can the media be allowed the right to toss anybody’s hat at will without a simultaneous sense of accountability?