13 July 2020 08:06 PM

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MARTAND JHA | 15 JUNE, 2020

A Tragic Death is Turned Into a Feast By News Vultures

RIP Sushant Singh Rajput


Sushant Singh Rajput, a rising star of Hindi cinema, left everyone shell shocked with his suicide. As soon as the news travelled about his suicide, fans just couldn’t believe that an actor who was just 34 years old, who had a great career lying ahead of him, who was supposed to mesmerize the audience with many unforgettable performances, how could he leave this world so soon?

Soon another piece of news started to trickle in that Sushant was under depression for several months now and it may be one of the reasons why he chose to take such a step. Emotions of millions started pouring in as many fans started posting about mental health awareness, depression and reaching out to your near and dear ones on the social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were flooded with such heart wrenching posts with many fans even coming out to speak out on mental health issues in general and specially during these times of COVID19 and lockdown due to which many people are feeling lonely and depressed.

Amidst all this, news channels kept their coverage on Sushant’s ‘alleged suicide’ running. But what was shocking was the way many prominent news channels, particularly Hindi channels, transgressed all norms and ethics of journalism in the coverage of his death. From a reporter of a channel asking the grieving and crushed father of Sushant about he was feeling to that same channel running a news ticker stating, “Aise Kaise Hit Wicket ho gaya Sushant” (how did you get a hit wicket like this Sushant).

Shameful and shameless audacity to term a suicide as a hit wicket, in terminolgy used in cricket wherein a batsman’s body hits the wicket accidentally, and is declared out. This is appalling and defies the basic tenets of journalism, even by the low standards we are witnessing these days.

Other news channels were no different. It seemed almost as if there was a competition going on between who can be more irresponsible in their coverage.If one was appalling the other was hastening to equal or surpass the nasty coverage of a tragic death.

Another Hindi news channel ran a story titled, “Patna ka Sushant Mumbai mein fail kyon” (Why did Sushant from Patna fail in Mumbai). The parallel being drawn was clear, that the suicide was linked to failure as that is the conclusion the ignorant channel had reached to attract attention. This shows the levels to which the TV news media organizations situated in NOIDA Film city have sunk to. Basic decency, humanity and sensitivity were found completely missing from the reportage and coverage of the film actors death..

Everyday viewers hope that these television news channels would not fall further below the low bar of ethics and responsibility that exist. But every time the sane audience is surprised. As the bottom of the barrel does not seem to exist for these people, with rational, thinking, decent viewers being proved wrong time and again. This kind of coverage cannot be qualified as ‘JOURNALISM’.

The fall of the Indian media is in itself a story to tell. The insensitivity with which most of the Hindi news channels have covered the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput shows that the people who work in these channels, especially those who are in decision making positions are not just bad journalists but not humane either.

Humanity and compassion defines good journalism but seems to be a byword in what we see on television channels these days. This is not about just one story or one news ticker or one headline that A or B channel does or has been doing. Sadly, it is the nature and character of the beast, that is commonly known as national broadcast media (with few honorable exceptions). If one does a content analysis of the way most of these channels conduct their day to day business of reportage, one would find innumerable instances of hatred, communal bigotry and outright propaganda being pushed as journalism.

One can understand that how bad it looks when the ‘story’ (as in the case of Sushant’s alleged suicide) itself becomes a ‘story’ due to an extremely bad and distasteful level of journalism. That is precisely why many people on social media decided to name and shame these channels. Because they realized that enough is enough and people need to start holding the media accountable for its actions, both omissions and commissions.

The rot lies within the system itself in which media is functioning. If one really wants to hold these channels accountable and force them to behave in a sane way, the audience collectively needs to stop watching these channels and start holding the owners and advertisers of these shows and these channels accountable.

Only this could possibly make a change a desired change otherwise this dirty and shoddy treatment of news will completely extinguish good and honest journalism. For now let us remember that a brilliant actor full of promise has left us, and it is time to start working towards mental health awareness so that no individual has to go through this kind of emotional trauma alone.

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