Every day, India sees the media trial of a case on the news channels in which the entire news channels go after a single case and make it a national issue in disregard of its importance on people’s life. The media deliberately ignores all other highly important issues and takes up a single case, which is in favor of the central government, and highlights it non-stop for weeks and months. In doing so, the anchors and journalists not only disregard the journalistic ethics but also cross all limits.
This kind of vicious media trial is currently going on Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death in which the news channels are basically targeting her girlfriend Rhea Chakrabvorty. The channels have been raising the death of Sushant for months with single aim to show the people that Shushant was murdered by Rhea. As Shushant was found hanging in the fan, the narrative was that he had committed suicide due to depression he was going through for various reasons. However, the news channels took up the issue and singlehandedly changed the entire narrative suggesting that he was murdered by Rhea. In proving so, the media has been coming up with many distorted and unverified facts. It has been showing leaked personal information and giving only voice to those who are blaming Rhea in a brazenly one-sided manner. It has been airing only one side of the story without taking comments from other side and brazenly blaming her or her family members for committing any illegal act. In this way, the media made a large of their viewers to believe that Sushant was murdered by Rhea and her family along some other accomplices. In fact, the channels have been treating her in a way that she is already the guilty of the crime without any judicial verdict. The reporters are constantly wandering around her house and even interrogating the delivery boy who goes to supply food in that area. When Rhea went to the CBI office, she could not come out of her car without the help of police as the swarm of reporters were ready to mob her. This kind of craziness is going on in the case and it still continues unabated despite the Press Council of India reprimanded the channels. There were some senior journalists who expressed their loath over such vicious journalism. Some news outlet like The Wire wrote strongly worded editorial to denounce the media bullies.
But, this is not the first time when media has been viciously targeting someone. News channels do media trial every now and then. One of the most vicious media trials was of Tablighi Jamaat in this year. The way, the news channels were targeting the Tablighi preachers after some of them tested covid-19 convinced a large number of population in India that it’s them and the Muslim community who are spreading the virus in India. The news channels aired hateful comments and communally-loaded fake news about the Tablighi preachers in particular and the Muslim community in general. The vicious media trials against them had triggered attacks and discrimination against the Muslim community. The hate-storm spread by the news channels has had repercussions on the ground. The government launched brutal crackdown against the Tablighi preachers and amended the visa rules which discriminate against Muslims.
But here, no one came forward to call out the hateful media trials against the Tablighis as The Wire and Press Council took notice of it in the Rhea’s case. The hateful media trial of Tablighis did not shake the collective conscience of the nation as it is happening in Rhea’s case. One of the reasons, these type of trials continue to flourish because people have selective approach towards frenzied behavior of the media. They remain silent when it is happening with someone. But they spoke out when it happens with somebody who is close to them. This double standard approache towards it has made the situation worse. If concerned people would have taken strong notice of media trial in the Tablighi case, this would perhaps not have happened with Rhea. Similarly, when media trial was done against Zakir Naik, nobody had taken notice of that. The Wire, which has taken notice of media trial of Rhea, had joined the campaign against Naik and published article demanding action against him while news channels were targeting him.
In Tablighi’s case, it took Bombay High Court to denounce it and the propaganda against the Jamaat. In a remarkable verdict, the High court clearly observed that the media trial of Tablighi was done to scapegoat them by the government to pin the blame of spreading virus in India on them.
“There was big propaganda in print media and electronic media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz Delhi and an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading COVID-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners,” said the High Court.
It is necessary to understand here that these media trials are not natural reactions of any particular incident. They are done by design to serve the agenda of somebody. As in the Tablighi case, the High Court clearly observed the propaganda was being done to scapegoat the Tablighi for the losses and the sufferings, the pandemic brought on the people. In this way, the failures of the government in this regard can be covered up. The anger and frustration of the people has been channelized towards the Tablighi Jamaat. Now, the government can simply get away with its responsibilities and accountabilities towards the people amid the pandemic. Similarly through Rhea’s case, the media is trying to divert the attention of people from the reals issues which the country has been facing. The important issues like sharp spike in Corona cases and government’s failures to deal with it, the unprecedented job losses and economic slowdown, the encroachment of Indian land by China has been buried by the media. So, the media is trying their best at the behest of central government that people are involved in some ludicrous issues and forget about the serious issues which point to the failures of the government.