If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. There are reports that suggest Gopinath Munde could have survived the car crash if he had worn the seat-belt. It was a tragic, avoidable death. Within the day most TV channels had programmes on driving-safety and the use of seat-belts, how to follow traffic rules. These are routine hygiene issues in driving and use of roads. It is how easily we dismiss routines that often costs more lives. (On why “routines” and routine hygiene are important I recommend you read these two posts: Fool’s Secularism and Broken Windows).
Even on flights the most frequent travellers don’t switch off mobiles or wear their seat-belts when required or pull their seat-backs upright despite the signs or announcements. Some crew member has to come and persuade them to do so. Recently two buildings collapsed, one in Delhi and one in Chennai. The Chennai building was a 12-storey high-rise that killed 10 people and injured several others on June 29. Usually, the ones killed are workers who put up temporary residence in the basement or ground-floor of the building or the space around the building. Immediately, HeadlinesToday ran a show on what measures buyers should take before buying a flat. Tips like checking on cement quality, soil tests and so on. How dumb can these people get? Do ordinary folks buying a flat go around checking cement and soil? And how are they supposed to do it? Do they have the expertise? This is essentially the failure of the municipality or the govt in enforcing strict construction laws. It would be fair to expect building and construction inspectors to carry out regular checks and put out notices prominently.
The media loves a tragedy; natural or man-made. Remember how all the media folks gathered on the coast of Orissa and Andhra to report on cyclone Phallin in October 2013? Fortunately, the govts there took precautions and evacuated people and there was no heavy loss of life or damage. That’s a blow to media! The next day all of them had packed up and returned to Delhi with not much of a tragedy to report. That was a great exercise in “preventive action” by govt. There is a need for such a desperate preventive measure in the media to avert a possible tragedy. It’s a question Prakash Javdekar, the new I&B minister, must seriously address. A serious tragedy or death is waiting to happen because of media’s misconduct, particularly from TV reporters. This concerns the hounding of individuals who are either soft targets for media or because their political agenda dictates such intrusions. Take a look at this pic:
The top row has pics of Nitin Gadkari being hounded by reporters in Nagpur. They also hounded him at Delhi and Nagpur airports over an alleged scam. In particular, it involved a 19-part witch-hunt by Arnab Goswami on TimesNow which had nothing but a political agenda to unseat Gadkari as BJP President. NG was pushed and shoved around, he was waylaid when he tried to enter his car, and he was accosted at airports because of the desire of an orgy of violent reporting by the media. Last year Gurunath Meiyappan had reached Mumbai to surrender to the police in the IPL betting scam. TimesNow chased the police vehicle from Mumbai airport to the police station giving a running commentary all through the drive. Yes it was a chase almost like the one seen in the case of OJ Simpson. This is a seriously dangerous trend. Not just that, at the police station the cameramen and reporters jostled and poked mics at Meiyappan in the most uncouth and uncivilised manner. It took half an hour for the police to get out of the vehicle to the building in the complex.
Immediately after he took over, the first announcement that PJ made was that he would discuss 100% FDI in media with the media folks. Enthusiasm! One can understand his enthusiasm to please the media crooks and score some brownie points. PJ perhaps forgets that most of the media is still a bunch of poodles of Sonia Gandhi. The only privacy they respect is that of the Gandhi and Vadra family, everyone else is fair game for them. We have known film actors like Salman Khan and Dharmendra to have assaulted reporters or cameramen for excessive intrusion and harassment. The reporters want to provoke such actions with their hounding to create even more sensation. It is just that most decent people helplessly tolerate this unwarranted intrusion and nonsense. Take a look at these:
On top is the pic of Preity Zinta being hounded. Timesnow even sent a reporter to stalk her house in Los Angeles where Preity travelled after a molestation complaint she had lodged in Mumbai. On her return her car was crowded again by reporters making her life miserable. What is the purpose of all this? Just a few soundbites? Is it impossible to report on any case without such uncivilised behaviour? Is it necessary to push, shove, jostle and shove mics and cameras into people’s faces and vehicles to report? TimesNow is the biggest offender these days. Earlier they had hounded N. Sreenivasan of BCCI so much that they stalked all his houses and even filmed while he was jogging. I have no love lost for Sreenivasan but I certainly don’t think the media has the right to such invasion.
In the second row are pics of Nihalchand Meghwal, a union minister, who has been alleged to be involved in a sexual offence case. An FIR has been registered in the same case in which the investigation against him was closed earlier. A moron called Aditya Raj Kaul hounded him in some place in Rajasthan and grandly claimed they had “located him” as if Nihalchand had gone underground or absconded. I have seen the videos and it was Kaul who was offensive and provoking Nihalchand poking mics into the latter’s face and into his vehicle while the minister kept repeating “no comment, no comment”. Kaul then ranted that he was heckled by the minister’s men. I am surprised they didn’t beat up this idiot because some day such a thrashing is inevitable. Excessive intrusion is as much physical violence as a retaliatory violent action. Who the hell are these reporters? They have a license to hound people? After all this, the moron Aditya Raj Kaul tweeted he was safe as if he was attacked by terrorists. These are the antics they resort to when their target is clearly “political” and has nothing to do with journalism. Did you watch all this, Mr Javdekar?
In the third row are pics of PK Bansal who is alleged to be involved in a scam in the railways. The reporters zoom into his residence and show his “goat sacrifice”. That is perhaps even tolerable. But look at the next pic. The entire uncouth crowd of media has blocked the gates to Bansal’s residence. If the context weren’t mentioned these morons would look like they are protesting or agitating for “Goat rights”. Such is the cheap level to which journalism has fallen. The excessive intrusion is not journalism but Paparazzi behaviour. There is another serious issue where journalists are not being prosecuted and punished for intrusions: sting operations.
One has to remember that phone tapping and recording is illegal. If that is illegal then how are unauthorised sting operations legal? How is it legal to intrude upon a person, induce him or her to some offence and then grandly claim he or she is corrupt or a murderer or rapist? Private sting operations cannot be legal and there should be a law to ban them totally. Many journalists (like in the 2G scam or AR Antulay scam) have found genuine methods to expose corruption and crime. The only cause where stings can be authorised should be when the police or a legal investigating body carries out a sting to seek evidence for an already registered crime. The media cannot claim a license to such actions especially when most of the top editors of the media are corrupt and, if investigated genuinely, most of them would be in jail. Even if the media wants to carry out a sting it must seek prior authorisation by someone like the police commissioner or a suitable authority. Unauthorised sting operations must be made illegal and punishable.
Contrast all the above with the National Herald scam. Not one editor dared to ask any question to Sonia or Rahul Gandhi. Not one joker like Aditya Raj Kaul or Navika Kumar got anywhere near their residences. Not one cameraman filmed activities inside their residences. None of them dared to hound Robert Vadra. The circus clown Arnab did not even dare to call the Gandhis on TV to answer questions which he thinks is his birthright with everyone else. These criminals never know when and where the Gandhis travel, they claim respect for privacy. They don’t know if and what Sonia’s illness is for which she supposedly goes abroad for treatment. Again privacy! Why is it only this dynasty is entitled to privacy? All other citizens are third class citizens? The media has the right to ask questions. Their target has the right not to answer and when someone says “no comment” that should be honourably accepted. Especially in cases where the issue is a crime the target is entitled NOT TO say a word to the media. The target is neither answerable to the media nor is he liable to incriminate himself through soundbites to media, which is what our sensation-seeking media desires.
The media, like I said before, has the right to ask questions but must keep a very safe distance and ask questions honourably. They cannot poke mics at a person or into his vehicle. They can shout their questions from a safe distance of 10 feet. They do not have the right to picket and crowd houses of any individual no matter what the issue. This needs a law that bars them from such intrusion. Princess Diana was killed in such as case. OJ Simpson could very well have ended up in a disaster on the streets. This requires appropriate laws that can prevent a tragedy. Are you prepared to act, Mr Javdekar? Or are you waiting for a tragedy like all other tragedies to start thinking about it? Can you prevent a tragedy?