What the Media's Role Should Be
I'm posting an article written by a family friend, outraged at the kind of coverage post the rape of British teenager, Scarlett, in Goa. While I do believe that the teenager's mother showed remarkably poor judgement in leaving a 15-year-old on her own in the care of someone they had known for only a few weeks, that does not make Scarlett culpable in what happened to her. In typical fashion, the politicians and bureaucracy are not only busy covering up matters but also trying to victimise the victim. And media, in particular journalists who are known to be influential and should highlight the objective facts, are too busy making interesting shows that get higher ratings out of it.
For Decency’s Sake…………
This evening, when I got up after seeing your TV Show, “We, The People” on NDTV, I felt very sad. Not merely because of the fact that, as a parent, I went through the agony and pain which Scarlett’s mother must have felt when the whole abominable event took place but, because of the manner in which, by way of a conclusion, you could not separate the chaff from the grain. Indeed, I felt sorry that you failed your profession and if you would permit me to say, failed your good sense, to allow long minutes of discussion and analysis of issues like, the behaviour of foreigners in Goa, whether Bikinis should be worn on beaches or not, and most surprisingly, issues of “We Goans against They”.
Mind you, I was not expecting you to behave as a ring master in conducting this kind of program (although I have an observation that you do behave like one when dealing with the spokesmen of a particular political party), all I am asking you to do is not to mistake the wood for the trees. As a journalist gifted with a razor sharp mind, you could have skillfully guided the discussion in order to chop off the superfluous from the essential. And because you did not do this, the moron politician masquerading as a representative of the Goa administration went on to make all kinds of atrocious statements which, when viewers overseas see your program, would render us Indians to an undeserved ridicule.
When you initiated the discussion by trying to put balm over the wounds of Scarlett’s mother, you were at your usual best. When you invited audience views on the situation of law & order on Goa’s beaches, you were bang on the right track. Then when people gave specific instances of policemen being helpful or not being helpful towards tourists, we were really making progress, and I said to myself, “This is my Barkha, she is going to rip apart the bluff put up by the authorities”.
And then, lo and behold, you suddenly permitted the discussion to be hijacked by people who said Goa was a beautiful place and foreigners were coming and spoiling it, and then somebody said, what the hell, I am a foreigner & staying here for umpteen years and nobody has ever said this to me. In between, when a British lady tourist, who happened to be a policewoman back in UK very politely said that she had seen Goa police going around demanding bribes from tourists, the Goan politician ferociously attacks her by saying all kinds of not-so-polite things, and finally demands to know if there was no corruption in British police.
Earlier, this gentleman (if I am not making an overstatement) even tried to suggest that all that happened to Scarlett was right because it was with her consent. ( Jesus, does this lawmaker bloke not know the basics of Indian Criminal Law that a minor’s consent does not render a rape legal?).And to cap the aimlessness of the discussion, people even discussed whether foreign tourists could buy land in Goa and, at this, the very senior official from Goa (not to be left behind by the politician) intervened to make an utter fool of himself by saying, “Yes, provided he has an indefinite business visa!”
You see, Barkha, with you as the anchor, we expected to go right at the bottom of the phenomenon. While conflicting and irrelevant views are bound to be aired in a discussion of this type, surely, the anchor can at least keep it going towards a meaningful direction, discouraging totally unproductive diversions. What would I have adored your interventions to be like? Something as follows: Listen folks, so what if Scarlett was on drugs, what if she was going steady with one of the rapists, what if, in her utterly blind and youthful passion, she landed into the arms of rapists and murderers? Do any of these factors make her “deserve” what she received, including the police attempts to hush up the matter? Is this the way any one of the parents would like their own daughter to be treated?
No? Then why the whole unashamed show of hypocrisy by those members of the audience whom you allowed to speak for long about the golden culture of Goa, and how it is being ruined by foreigners, and even more revoltingly, by the Goan politician who had the cheek to ask the British policewoman in the audience whether or not there was corruption in British police?
Barkha, the truth of the matter is that the incident is just one of the many which shows the utterly inadequate manner in which our governments are responding to the sudden and powerful burst of consumerism resulting out of liberalization and globalization.
Our legal and law enforcement systems led by corrupt politicians, and operated by insensitive bureaucrats, are just falling apart. This is generating one tragedy after another, and instead of realising the need for a basic overhaul, we all beat our chests for a while, and then forget the whole thing, till such time that another tragedy jerks us out of our forty winks. And a society which savours the legality or otherwise of the marriage of actor Sanjay Dutt with Manyata ( or feasts upon the controversy over the kiss which Richard Gere planted on actress Shilpa Shetty in public) rather than concern itself with more urgent matters, is perhaps doomed anyway.
--- By S.M.Singru, written on 16th March, 2008 after viewing the Sunday “We, The People” on NDTV