Another appalling trial by media

Posted: July 18, 2010 in Media
Tags: ,

So was Rouvanjit Rawla’s suicide induced by caning or was there something else to it? There are so many unanswered questions. No one has bothered to look for any answers, yet. But what I can comment on is something I have found acutely embarrassing – the role of the media which has been nothing short of dubious. I thought after the disgraceful reportage of the Aarushi Talwar case, the media had been reasonably chastised to mend its ways. But the manner the Rouvanjit case was reported, nothing seems to have changed.

By now most of the discerning viewers, would have realised that the talk about self censorship is all just bunkum. The news channels proved that when it came to TRPs and grabbing eyeballs, they would stop at nothing. I do not hold a candle to either La Martiniere or the Principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi. The manner in which the media went after both was just irresponsible and reporting of the worst kind. Just like in the Aarushi and Jessica Lal cases, a trial by media of the school and the principal has been conducted and ‘chief justices’ Sardesai, Dutt, Goswami, Sanghvi and others had already pronounced their verdict – Guilty. While I can honestly say that I expected nothing better from the broadcast media, I was a trifle disappointed by the views of my former boss.

I just wonder whether the media was really interested in getting to the bottom of the case or just drumming up hysteria thereby ensuring viewership. For example, was it just the caning, or the note in the boy’s diary, asking his parents to see the principal, that made him take the drastic step? Was a suicide note enough to indict the principal and the school? And did he write it? Was a forensic test conducted to ensure the authenticity of the note?

Applying the same yardstick, the late Viveka Babjee left a suicide note in which she blamed her boyfriend for her death. But the media immediately jumped to the boyfriend’s defence. So what was the difference between the two? A suicide note is a suicide note – whether it is written by a highly strung, allegedly neurotic woman or a 12-year-old boy.

So what was the liquid found in the boy’s stomach – soft drink or something stronger? Some papers said Fanta and others said it was an alcoholic drink. Didn’t the media think it was anything out of the ordinary to find a 12-year-old downing a semi-alcoholic drink? What about the boy’s parents and their personal lives? We know, for example, that the Rawlas were filthy rich and the boy suffered from a huge complex because he received very little attention at home. He was an attention-seeker ad invariably got into trouble for indiscipline in school. His grades were all messed up too. Could all these issues have driven him to suicide? Did the media investigate all these angles?

Call me old fashioned, but some of these American methods (which I call spockisms after Dr Benjamin Spock) don’t work with Indian kids. They haven’t worked that well with American kids either, have they? If they had, you wouldn’t read about American students pulling a gun on a teacher at the slightest pretext. So far in India, and thankfully so, students only look through their teachers, or insult them to their face in the classroom! And they don’t care about the consequences because they know they won’t be punished – after all they are the rich, spoilt V.I.Ps of this generation.

Will our pundits of the idiot box (now I know why they call it that!), tell me, why, while caning is an offence and should be dealt with accordingly, there’s nothing wrong in bringing stink bombs to school? Or bunking class? Or flouting rules? Shouldn’t a kid get punished for that? Okay, so corporal punishment is banned in schools. The school principal defied the law and caned the boy and he should be penalised. That still does not mean he was responsible for the boy’s death. I think the media conveniently overlooked the cardinal rule – “Every man is innocent, until proven guilty.”

But what is the truth? If the media cares enough about responsible and ethical journalism it should get to the bottom of the murky episode? Or does it believe it has done its job by crucifying the school and principal?

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