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Wrong court: Trial by media, again

At a time when people are struggling with multiple crises, it is almost as though the focus on the case is providing a distraction
Sushant Singh Rajput

The Editorial Board   |     |   Published 10.08.20, 02:24 AM

Little is more deplorable than a continuing public cacophony around the tragedy of an untimely death. The death of the young actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, has provoked precisely this kind of a cacophony, with video-recorded accusations, excited tweets and sullen defences — and the strident reporting of every step by some sections of the media. This was bad enough, but the ugliest part of the exercise was the gradual homing in of attention on one individual, Rhea Chakraborty, with whom the late actor was reported to have had a close relationship. The viciousness of the sexist — and origin-based — attacks on her on social media suggests that a scapegoat was needed to blame for the actor’s death. The actor’s father must have had reasons for filing a first information report against Ms Chakraborty, but that is matter for police investigation and the law. The inquiries have just begun, and nothing has gone to court as yet; there is no question of guilt or innocence till the processes are complete. Yet Ms Chakraborty is being publicly called out as culpable, not just through the irresponsible viciousness of social media, but through the rhetoric and emphasis of certain other sections of the media as well.

This is almost judgment by media. It is not novel in India: the Aarushi Talwar murder case provided an example of such judgment by media. There are many others. The media in a democratic country have the overwhelmingly important role of pointing out wrongs and injustices, evidence of corruption, failures of the administration and in the investigation of crimes. Building up villains in an unproven case is not their job. At a time when people are struggling with multiple crises, it is almost as though the focus on the case is providing a distraction. This is not just a matter of taste; it is an alarming failure of ethics. A civilized approach to a tragedy cannot be too difficult to achieve.

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