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Dadri and the other DON

Policy Pulse’s media critic reviews the good and bad of electronic news coverage in October

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Nov 19 2015 2:26PM | Updated Date: Nov 19 2015 3:02PM

Dadri and the other DONphoto by Hrishikesh bhatt

The unfortunate incident of a man being lynched by a mob simply on suspicion of eating beef has dominated national headlines for the past week. And anyone who is active on social media would have seen trends like #MediaWantsRiots and #DadriReporting making it to the top trend on twitter more than once during the last week.


It was a pleasant surprise to see the electronic media exercising some restrait in covering the entire sordid episode. The complains from many in the social media is that the media is focusing unnecessarily on the incident in Dadri and polarizing people’s opinions. But there is nothing wrong with reporting that a person who indeed belonged to a minority community was killed by a mob who belonged to the majority community simply because they believed he had consumed  a sacred animal (in this case cow) - which is what journalism is about -  reporting facts. 


Many can argue that media has been unnecessarily giving a lot of footage to politicians who are doing nothing but vitiate the environment at a sensitive time. True to its nature, many media channels (including two Rahul Kanwal on India today and Bhupendra Chaubey on CNN IBN) claimed to have got the first and exclusive interview of Sangeet Som, the BJP MLA who literally spewed hatred on the shows even declaring before police investigations concluded that the victim had cow meat in his possession. However, to give journalists their due, they interrupted Som when he said that.


But yes, most channels had been showing statements of people like Owaisi, Sadhvi Prachi & other politicians who many objectionable things which could polarise further but at the same time most newspapers and channels have been having debates asking politicians not to exacerbate matters by making irresponsible comments.


A section of women living in Bisara village where Akhlaq resided tried to stop media personnel from entering the village alleging that they were biased in the reporting. The women claimed that the media was biased in reporting and went only to Akhlaq’s family. Though there’s nothing wrong with that as mostly in cases of communal tensions or riots the media always visits the victims first.


But the media can’t be absolved of guilt altogether. There was a section of media - a media report on Tuesday claimed Akhlaq had gone Pakistan to meet his aunt Akhtari and stayed there for two and a half months and, after returning to India, had started holding meetings in a mosque and bought a new car, which the family later refuted.


In fact his family later clarified that he had visited went to Pakistan in 1988.  In situations like this even the slightest piece of wrong reporting can stoke passions & vitiate the environment further.


Even though most of the media had been pretty much restrained in covering the Dadri incident the media does have its lows & it hit absolute rock bottom during a live show on a Hindi news channel. During a live show at IBN 7, a lady astrologer was slapped by Om ji Maharaj, a self styled God-man. I know it happened weeks ago but it cracks me up every time I watch the footage. And the funniest part is not the slap it’s a disclaimer by the channel that they don’t endorse such behaviour.


But if the channel gets such guests in the studio then what can they possible expect. Another channel which needs to check it’s guests in Times now. Yesterday during the Newshour there were about six to seven guests in different windows with Arnab. At least two guests got just one chance to speak up during the entire over half hour debate.


In fact another low point of the media in the last few weeks was the sordid incident of the Delhi police looking for - Don. And if you are wondering which Don?  Then let me tell you it’s Somnath Bharti’s dog who went missing after his estranged wife accused Bharti of unleashing the dog. And the incident got more bizzare with Bharti demonstrating how docile his dog was. Despite his repeated instructions the dog didn't bite anyone! The fact that Bharti is involved in such antics is still not as shocking as the fact that news channels showed the entire drama on air.


Another funny live coverage was of the North Delhi Mayor Ravinder Gupta who went to the CM’s house to fumigate it. But he wasn't allowed to enter and later claimed that he wasn't allowed to enter as he suspected that the CM has larvae in his house. 


Even Indrani Mukerjea was back in news with more twists and turns about whether she tried to commit suicide or not. After various versions it now emerges that she didn't attempt suicide. Though this time as well the media followed every detail of the case. But this time the TRPs went down because people got bored with that particular sensational saga, the news channels also quickly put it in the back burner.


The media seems so driven by the money and numbers game so much these days that news seems to revolve around TRPs which is becoming a problem for serious journalism. Though this week was a mixed bag of good and bad. But its time for the media to introspect maybe?