Archive for September 7th, 2007

Responsible Citizen or Responsible Media?

My worst fears came true today with the arrest of ‘sting operation’ journalist in Uma Khurana case.

Two days ago, while traveling to work, Shikha, my friend, colleague, and travel partner 🙂, told me the news about Uma Khurana. The story is pretty simple yet sad reality.

An unknown news channel runs a so-called “sting” operation “uncovering” a government school teacher who was forcing school girls into prostitution by blackmailing them. An unidentified girl posed as a “victim.” After a hue and cry, Uma Khurana was arrested and man-handled by the mob. It was chief minister Sheila Dixit who announced that Uma Khurana has been suspended from her job at school.

Uma Khurana Man-handled

What is the cost of her individual dignity?

When Shikha told me about the school teacher Uma being beaten by angry students, my first fearsome doubt was: Is she really the accused? Was it right to manhandle her without giving her a chance to defend herself? Even if Uma Khurana is a “pimp” as the news story called her, what gave the mob a right to manhandle a woman who hadn’t yet been proven guilty by law? I doubted the authenticity of an unknown channel. But obviously, rest of the city didn’t. Also, it seems it is easier to take out your frustration in a mob, because mob has no face.

Two days after the story ran, police became confused as none of the parents came up to lodge a story. It turns out the “victim” in the sting operation was not a school girl at all! She was instead an aspiring journalist who gladly posed as schoolgirl-turned-prostitute on camera. (It is an different issue altogether how difficult it is to find jobs at entry level in this country.) Police is now questioning the journalist who ran that story. Today the journalist was arrested. A shame! A disgrace!

Ah, before you make the same mistake of jumping the gun and rendering the journalist guilty, take a while to think who should be ashamed in this entire episode.

Shame on the citizens of the country who do not think twice to kill in rage (do not forget the recent Bhagalpur incident or other road rage killings that happen everyday on roads of India), who do not give a hoot about law and order in the country. Shame on the news channels who mock sacred principles of journalism to garner cheap publicity or TRPs.

I condemn such news channels who run false stories, they do not appreciate the freedom fourth estate enjoys in our country. If our present Information and Broadcasting minister P. R. Dasmunshi would have his way, he would impose a news content code to regulate what news could be shown on TV and when! They also plan to lay down rules for sting operation. Such regulations threaten the freedom of Indian media. But do we value this freedom?

When will the Indian media value the power they hold on masses and resolve to use their freedom responsibly? As they say in Spiderman movies, “With great power, comes greater responsibility.” Media, along with its sting operations is useful weapon against social and political evils, but one that needs to be utilized judiciously.

The onus of being responible citizen lies on us. As for media, we need to keep making our collective voices heard.


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