Arts & Culture

Media Trials vs. Death Probes: What’s Actually Happening in Our Nation?

While Indian media continues to assume the role of the CBI in solving the mystery around Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, here are a few trivial factors of our nation that they’re failing to report.

Insinuating allegations, a perfect motive, a victim, a cut-throat-yet-lying villain, and frenzied anchors. The past months have turned our imperfectly normal news channels into entertainment shows, constantly on the hunt for their up and latest sansani case. Provocative headlines and rookie judgements have become essentials for filling the prime time spots and getting the necessary validation from all around. Investigative journalism isn’t something that is banned in India, but fake news and legal fiction has made it the flawed and misinterpreted backbone of our democracy.  

The way mainstream media has covered the Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) case, shows exactly how problematic and toxic mainstream media is in the status quo. They have very conveniently tried to find a villain in the prevailing rampant situation and themselves taken the authority to declare any defendant guilty. It also showed us how our media TRPs are unwilling to have tough conversations about topics which should be addressed to the people. 

The social media discourse about mental health as an aftermath of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death  was dismissed by the media and followed by a shoddy understanding of their take on mental health. These were chased by allegations that suggested that SSR was supposedly boycotted by the film industry owing to being an outsider, and not a part of any faction.

What the media should have done was question the whole structure and functioning of Bollywood where many unimportant things are given precedence over meritocracy. The media should have asked questions like why a movie like Sonchiriya (starring SSR) did not have the same hype or audience in comparison to a pathetically overrated movie like Student of The Year 2 which was released in the same year. 

Instead of focusing on the reasons why many actors not belonging to film families like Vikrant Massey, Jitendra Kumar, Radhika Apte, AvinashTiwary, Ali Fazal, Kay Kay Menon and many more are underrated, the media came up with a conspiracy theory in which allegedly, all the B-Town star kids came together and systematically boycotted SSR. Remember, the media is claiming all this without a shred of evidence.

Instead of having conversations about the legalisation of marijuana, the media denied the possibility of Sushant Singh Rajput consuming it. They portrayed that a person like SSR can’t be a “drug addict”, showing that consuming something like marijuana is still a taboo in our society. 

As for media houses and Bollywood are considered, SSR’s death has seemingly become a publicity stunt for both alike. Stars like Kangana Ranaut who never fail to disappoint when it comes to passing judgement have joined hands with our anchors and reporters to make bogus claims and allegations. Her interviews are clearly indicative of her lack of concern for the deceased vs. statements and publicity stunts. Instead of trying to focus on understanding the complexity of this whole situation, the media has seemed to assume that an investigative probe has been granted to them.

The amount of hatred Rhea Chakraborty has received speaks volumes about how the media can go to any depth in defaming a person even if there is no evidence proving them guilty . This defamation only happens because of the media’s hunger for sensationalism. We are living at an age where sensationalism is much more important than truth. It is utterly shameful how there are news channel reporters outside her house 24×7 and harassing her and her family members. This is nothing, but a blatant violation of the ethics of journalism. 

At this point when the CBI, which is the highest investigating body in the country is handling the case, the media should step back and let them do their job. 

If we truly want justice for Sushant Singh Rajput, then we need to hold the media accountable for using his death as a means for increasing their TRP and proclaiming people as guilty even though the case is still under investigation. 

History textbooks all through high school repeatedly talk about ‘Our Pasts’, but our media fails to learn from them. The 21st century has seen media trials gone wrong on various tangents. From the Sheena Bora case to Sunanda Pushkar, the Press Council has many times issued advisories against parallel trials in lieu of the ongoing investigations. Social media takes the cake when it comes to anything even remotely centred around Bollywood. The hysteria created amongst the fan following makes it rather impossible to reach a conclusive judgement and also hampers the actual investigation which has far more credibility.

Thousands of hours of broadcasting and leaving no stone unturned about the SSR case, there is undoubtedly no angle that has been left uncovered by the media. Some anchors have taken it to another level where talks like Gross Domestic Product (GDP)  growth are being considered as minor issues in front of Rhea Chakrobarty’s alleged lies. Flipping through news channels, not one of them was reporting the various ongoing crises that are impacting a much larger sect of our population.  This shows how the media is not willing to question the establishment, to the extent where for them Rhea Chakrobarty’s alleged lies are more important than anything else.

Here are the top 5 issues whose existence aren’t being acknowledged enough (or even completely ignored) by our news agencies:

1.   India’s Covid Outbreak – The World’s Fastest Growing

On 1st September, India became the only country in the world to record 80,000 cases in a day. It seems as if most news agencies find it hard to report more than one occurring issue. Well, more than 150 days back when cases were hardly under a lakh, the media constantly discussed the outbreak, ways to curb it, and constantly kept the government policies under check (one way or the other). Our Prime Minister is the only democratically elected head of a state of a country who has not done a single press conference during this pandemic.

Now, though Unlock 4.0 has made the nation literally go dancing outside to the newly normalised world. Claimed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), India has now become the leader in the global rise of coronavirus infections, and has also got the highest mortality rate in all of South Asia. Not achievements to be proud of, right?

2.   The Massive GDP Decline

Image Credits: Business Today

Being the first instance of negative growth since 1996, the data released by the National  Statistical Office (NSO) was indicative of a sharp slip in the nation’s GDP by 23.9% for the April – June quarter.

Though the decline is attributed to “exogenous factors” due to the extraordinary times currently prevailing, the level of fall in the GDP is seemingly much higher than any other comparable country. Allegedly, the coronavirus outbreak only accelerated an already declining economy.

Monetary and fiscal measures have failed to prop up the economy, and according to ICRA, an investment and credit rating agency, the economic performance took a deeper dip due to the underplay of the construction, manufacturing and trade production sub-sectors. An irreparable amount of 18.9 monetary jobs have been lost owing to the pandemic.

But well no, media houses still feel this issue is not important enough to gain any coverage.

3.   Chinese Intrusion in Ladakh

Image Credits: The Statesman

The past three months have seen multiple levels of diplomatic and military engagements to resolve the conflict stemming from the Indo-China border in Ladakh.  The Ministry of External affairs reported that there has been a recurring flare up in eastern Ladakh.

On August 29/30 there were reports of provocative military manoeuvres in the south bank area of the Pangong Lake, where the Indian Army took “appropriate defensive measures”. India wishes to strictly adhere to “peaceful measures” to resolve the outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

      4. Floods in Bihar

Image Credits: Talented India

Another massively underreported recent crisis is the flooding in Bihar. Though its ignition is dated a couple of weeks prior, it seems like Indian reportage requires deaths and destructive losses to cover extremities.

Though the last fatality was reported on 20th August, more than 83.62 lakh people have been continually suffering in Bihar, owing to the Ganga flowing over the danger mark at many places, flooding various areas. Only six relief centres are functional and the number of Disaster Response Force teams deployed have also come down to 21.

To assess the damage extent in the state, Mr. Piyush Goel, Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry along with his six member central team visited the flood affected areas. The team is to support a report to the Union Government for assistance after inquiring about the ongoing relief and rescue operations.

Over 5 lakh people have been evacuated and 34 community kitchens have been set to provide aid to the affected areas. One can only hope there is vast reportage and help issued to the state of Bihar.

5. Conducting JEE and NEET exams during pandemic

Image Credits: Trak India

The JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) started on 1st September and will go on until 6th September, while another colossally serious test, the NEET (The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test), will be held on the thirteenth of the month. 

For a considerable length of time, numerous students have protested against these tests, pointing towards India’s rising of Covid-19 cases – the country has recorded 3.8 million cases so far, hitting the world’s highest daily totals in recent days.

Despite this, the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the tests, would not reschedule them. 

Students even took their concerns to court, but the Supreme Court dismissed their plea, saying that “the career of the students cannot be put on peril for long and a full academic year cannot be wasted”.

At a point of time when it was the responsibility of the media to be a representative of the voices of these students, it has failed to do so.

Feature Image Credits: News Laundry

Sara Bhasin

Sloka Roy