Monday, July 14, 2008

Aarushi Murder Case - Media circus and Police incompetency

So Finally Aarushi Talwar murder case is solved. Finally I hope. Unless there is some other hidden twist in this tale. After all, what can you expect when a murder investigation is done in full public view and media glare and when every day you have a new person being suspected for murder? It is not unusual for some investigations to take longer but Arushi murder case stands out not for investigation but the way it was (un)done by Police and circus which media created around it. Every news channel followed this "breaking story" like a mad hound. As if it was only murder committed in this country. What was even worse was the way all news channels shamelessly hounded Talwar family and others involved and ran theories as breaking news. There were stories of Aaruhsi's father being the murderer, insinuation of his affair with a woman and worse of all stories on Aarushi's character and hint of incest.

That there is something rotten with law and policing in this country is not something unknown. This is a country where suspects can be kept in jails for years waiting for their cases to be judged, police can be easily bribed and investigations are often botched up and superficial. But in Arushi's case, the media had created an unholy alliance with incompetent Police to feed us half cooked stories and lies as breaking news just to keep their 24 hours channels running. Every news channel was trying to come out with its own version of truth and investigations. Investigations, done in studio rooms with graphics and animation and by hyper news presenters asking viewers to vote who they think were the murderers. An Entire nation was turned into detective. A new form of collective wisdom perhaps where murder mysteries would be solved in news rooms and by news polls and not by hard and objective investigation. All ethics of journalism were compromised on alter of one- up-manship and TRP race. Firstly, illiterate police officers leaked absolutely private details of Arushi to media and then Media did nothing but feed on it. Whatever happened to a minor's rights of privacy? Few things come out of this case for us a society to introspect:

police force is unable to do any investigation in a scientific and modern way. They are too prejudiced and biased to employ objective judgement to crack a case. They also appear virtually illiterate and have no knowledge of a person’s (dead or suspect) right to privacy. If CBI has to be called out in every other case, then what happens to all those cases which don’t get as much press and CBI involvement as this one did? And when police officers who botched up the case would be punished, if at all? Dont we need massive overhauling of our police force to bring them out of medieval mindeset and methods or is it that Police has forgotten how to investigate as it has beocme merely a coercise tool in hand of state?

News Media is fast turning out into a parody and circus of speculations and theories. It has forgotten all journalistic values and ethics and is high on its power and privileges. It thinks nothing about runing speculations as stories on a 14 years old girl's private life. It thinks that it is not answerable to anybody and can do anything in name of freedom of press. It is not able to self-regulate it and it is about time that someone else (State!!) did it. As my friend, says "you can’t really expect bunch of kids to self-regulate, they need bit of parental control". And presently, Indian news media, especially news channels are nothing more than quarrelsome bunch of kids. They need little rap on their knuckles.

There no privacy laws in this country. Anybody suspected of anything can be hounded by media, their names and pictures splashed 24 hours on TV. All kinds of insinuations can be mixed with fiction and drama to cook up a truth. Can Talwars now sue all those news channels which ran day long stories on them and had camped in front of their house? And why not!

A voyeuristic society ? As the case was unfolding "live" on news channels, there were reports of some production house planning to make movie or TV show based on Arushi's life , even before truth was revealed and investigations were over. That was clearly insensitive and indication of how voyeuristic we have really become . Afterall, if there is 24 hours coverage of a murder , trial by media and attempt to make TV shows on a tragedy, then there must be because many of us want to watch this on our TV sets. Is it an indication that we are becoming a voyeuristic society now where news , entertainment, gossips, halftruths are all mixed together in a heady concoction of 24 hours news sprinkled with advertisement breaks?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reality Kid Shows - warped reality anyone!

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The recent incident of a 15 years old girl from Kolkata losing her voice due to reprimand by judges during a Bengali reality show is being widely discussed in TV and print media. Central Government has announced that it would soon come out with guidelines and regulations for such reality shows on TV where minors and kids are involved. Even as girl is being treated at a Bangalore hospital for reportedly severe mental shock, the show producers and parents are blaming each other in media. Times News ran the snippets of event last night with English subtitles and seeing them, I think the comments passed by judges were little harsh considering that the girl was in tears and visibly shaken.

Both the parties are to be blamed here. Both the Producers of such shows which try to make money by staging drama by encouraging unnecessary provocation and comments and parents who are ready to go to any extent to ensure that their kids become celebrities. Most of reality shows for kids are about songs and dances where kids enact popular movie numbers. Shows are sold to audiences as a quest to search for new talent and parents go to any length to make their kids participate in them. Some parents even quit their jobs to support their kid in this quest of this mini-celebrity hood. Now I might be little slow here in understanding but I don’t understand what sort of talent is found in these shows!! Often you see kids dancing to raunchy numbers which they don’t even perhaps understand. There are little girls who sing "beedi jalile jigar se piya...." and judges comment "fantastic...your expressions were excellent". That is preposterous. How can little kids be expected to or even required to understand such songs and then emote them either through song or dance!

In India parents often derive their own sense of achievement or failure by what their kids achieve or don’t achieve. This adds lots of pressure on kids to perform. You could see this behavior on so many reality shows for kids. You can see parents fighting with show organizers when kids get eliminated as if their whole world has crashed down. You can see parents staging emotional drama or using parchocial appeals to get votes from audiences. What sort of reality does it create for a kid who is still trying to get any comprehension of world around him/her?