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‘Channels’ run amuck

Editorial |

Not for nothing is she still known as Nirbhaya ~ though close to six years have elapsed since the horrific sexual assault that ultimately took her life.

So was it really necessary for the apex court to have to drive home what every rookie reporter and “sub” ought to learn during his/her initial journalistic training?

That there is an element of sanctity to the identity of a victim/survivor of such assaults, and it is both illegal and immoral for the media to exploit her misery.

Shamefully that basic has been contemptuously ignored by several television channels that have “gone to town” sensationalising the repeated abuse of several young girls at a shelter-home in Muzaffarpur.

They have been repeatedly interviewed, which the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta condemned as having to “re-live their trauma”. “Is this the way we are treating our girls,” the court asked.

“Now that the probe has been handed over to the CBI will these girls be questioned in front of a camera? It is not easy for anybody. They have to re-live the trauma. It is horrible.”

Justice Lokur who had viewed one such offensive clip said “How you talk to a child is different from how you talk to an adult. You do not talk to an alleged rape victim this way. There are different ways of talking”.

The court, while issuing a slew of directives, also took “on board” the question of Press freedom, and noted the sensitive manner in which the media had handled the recent incident of children trapped in a cave in Thailand.

“Regulating” the media is unacceptable in a democratic society, particularly when governments display authoritarian tendencies, but if the print media has a watchdog in the Press Council, clearly something parallel would be in order for the electronic media.

Self-regulation has not worked, the in-house mechanisms are much too ineffective. It can be nobody’s case that all channels toe the official line as Doordarsan does, but private channels must learn to adhere to professional ethical standards, not allow their craze for ratings to run wild ~ even if that helps boost revenues.

It is a collective blot on the electronic media, little purpose will be served by channels pointing accusing fingers at their competitors. Unless some restraint is restored, “external” control will be favoured.

However, and this is no defence for irresponsible TV, the media is not only to blame for what the court has rightly flayed. The girls were under the care of the authorities who obviously facilitated the media in accessing them: by doing so they have compounded their crime in not “sheltering” the girls.

There is no point in mentioning which party rules Bihar ~ the dereliction of duty has assumed criminal dimensions. Is Beti padao beti bachao just a hollow political slogan? The state and central governments have both failed pathetically.