Wanted: Some Sense & Sensitivity In Media Reporting

The media thrives on tragedy. That’s the nature of the beast. But does it follow that the media person has an inalienable right to violate anyone’s privacy and be crude, rude and grossly insensitive in the quest for that elusive ‘exclusive’? Most media persons, especially of the television variety, seem to think they have.

The way the media behaved while covering the suicide of a BBA student of Unit VIII DAV school in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday – as it invariably does in such cases – makes one cringe. Just imagine the state of the mind of the father of the girl, who has just come to know about the death of his only child, being asked by an ‘enterprising’ TV journalist; “Do you think there could be a love angle to the suicide?” And this after it had become abundantly clear that the girl committed suicide after being accused of theft of some cosmetics by her fellow boarders. What sense of timing!

Another reporter kept asking the parents why they had not informed the school authorities if their daughter was being harassed by her hostel mates? It seemed it was the parents who were in the dock! Yet another asked; “What was the Superintendent doing?” It was if the parents were watching what was happening in the hostel on a TV screen sitting at home! And all this was after the mother of the girl had told the assembled hacks that her daughter had called her past midnight yesterday to tell her about the harassment and torture she had been subjected to and there was precious little they could have done at that unearthly hour since they live in Talcher.

[The school authorities – the Principal of the DAV Business School, in particular – did not exactly cover themselves with glory in the way they handled the case. The principal held a ‘press conference’ to brief the media about the case even before informing the parents about the death of their daughter. Worse still, he gave away the mobile number of the girl’s father to the media persons before realizing his folly and requesting them not to call them since they did not know about the suicide yet. But here, we are essentially concerned with the TV media’s self-arrogated ‘right’ to play judge, jury and executioner.]

Even a police officer needs a warrant issued by the competent authority to enter your house. But the TV journalist needs no permission from anyone. Boom in hand, s/he can barge into your house – even the bedroom – any time of the day or night if there is a sniff of a ‘story’ there. There may be bereavement in the family but that would not stop the intrepid TV reporter from thrusting the boom in front of your face and asking; “How are you feeling?” [In doing so, however, it must be said that the TV media in Odisha is behaving exactly the way its counterparts do in the rest of the country.]     

Also Read: A Glossary Of Political Double Entendre

Of later, the electronic media has arrogated to itself the sole right to ask questions of everybody. But who would question the media when it crosses the well defined laxman rekha of professional conduct? It is futile to expect the Press Council, a toothless body with no power, to take the erring media house to task. Such is the power – and fear – of TV media that even seemingly all-powerful politicians cannot muster the courage to ask questions of it. If they do, the media fraternity would hit the streets crying itself hoarse about attempts to ‘gag the press’, ‘throttle freedom of expression’ and ‘rape of democracy.

Not that the political class should ever be allowed to rein in the media. But unfortunately, even the supposedly ‘self regulating’ bodies like NBA have been singularly ineffective in curbing the tendency of TV journalists to go overboard and inculcating some sense and sensitivity into their minds. But therein lies the only hope of a saner, sensitive media. What is needed is a self regulatory body that sets a ‘standard operating procedure’ (SOP) for the media and has the power to punish media houses that violate it.  

Also Read: DAV Bhubaneswar girl student ends life