If Nirbhaya’s Friend Was Reportedly Paid For Interviews, What Does It Say About Our Media?

Did Nirbhaya's friend sell his story to the highest media bidder? It does seem so, if some reports are to be believed. Unscrupulous media, of course, but insensitive society, too.

Did Nirbhaya’s friend sell his story to the highest media bidder? It does seem so, if some reports are to be believed. Happens all the time -unscrupulous media, of course, but insensitive society, too.

It has been alleged that the friend of the gruesome Delhi gang rape victim Nirbhaya ‘sold’ his story to TV channels for huge sums of money, according to a series of tweets by senior journalist Ajit Anjum.

If true, it could be one of the worst possible examples of commodification by our ‘beloved’ Indian media.

Reading those tweets and reading subsequent articles about this piece of news couldn’t have been more nauseating.

When I first came across this I had hoped that the allegation wasn’t true. But since there has been no comment from this ‘so-called friend’ neither has there been any news of this person filing a defamation case against Ajit Anjum, maybe it is. 

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And if it’s proven to be true, those media houses and this person were using someone’s rape to make money.

If it’s true that this person, who saw the Nirbhaya victim getting brutally raped, was inhuman enough to demand money for TV appearances then I don’t know what to say about it. Words fail to express the rage and exasperation that any sane human being would feel after something like this.

I don’t know if it is the first such incident, but I know that it will not be the last because media houses have become experts at selling anything, without bothering about the consequences.

Making money out of someone’s misery is not new. And many in the media business are experts at it. A perfect example of this are movies like Peepli LiveAnd it’s a true commentary on how such stories are covered. The insensitivity of it all may be baffling but it’s true.

And if you want a good look at how media works, watch Network

Although it was made in 1976, this movie is a true reflection of how media houses, especially electronic media, work around the world. 

Why let sensitivities get in the way of a good story?!

Being insensitive, intrusive and pathetic has become our media’s forte. I will run out of pages writing about how our media is so good at commoditizing almost anything under the sun.

The way in which some news channels covered Arushi Talwar’s murder investigation (demonizing the Talwar family even when the courts hadn’t given the final verdict), Sridevi’s death (without a care for the plight of her family and fans), or their reporting on the recent Encephalitis outbreak in Muzaffarpur, Bihar (without giving a flying flamingo about the condition of the patients or doctors working there).

Incidentally, Ajit Anjum was one of the two culprits (the other being Anjana Om Kashyap) who decided to barge in the hospital which was filled with children, most of whom were in an extremely critical condition and bully the medical staff. Did they show the same amount of enthusiasm in questioning the Janata Dal (United) – Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government who was responsible for this mess? Were the overworked and underpaid medical staff easier targets for them?

If you feel that this isn’t enough to pronounce our media guilty then just google the following keywords ‘ Insensitive Reporting Indian Media’ and have a look at the search results. I stopped after reading the first article because it brought back memories of even more instances of the horrifying reporting standards of those who claim to ‘unearth the truth’. 

Shashi Tharoor was right in using the following words about a member of the elite brigade of Indian Journalists “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist”.

But this is true not just for that journalist but for many others of his fraternity.

Not everything that sells is gold

Money can also be made by putting someone in misery.

This article on how Sanya Malhotra was rejected by a dance reality show because she didn’t have a strong backstory is a perfect example of that.

To deny someone’s talent an opportunity to shine because they don’t have a ‘sob story’ that will get you TRPs is the definition of fucked-up. Think of the pain she must have gone through. And she is not alone. I know of another person who went through the same thing at the same reality show. And they are not the only ones to do this. This is the norm across TV programs like these. 

It’s a sad reality that it takes a tear-jerking backstory to be able to get ahead in most of the talent hunt shows because they run on public votes. Not to say that there is no talent on display, but the fact that you are using someone’s misery to grab eyeballs is indeed very repulsive.

I have run out of words and patience for such reality shows and although I do not want to judge those who make these shows, I do not want to watch them either.

Can we stop this madness?

We can. The argument used by media houses that indulge in blatant commodification of news and entertainment is that people love this. To some extent, they are right because viewership for such cringe-worthy nonsense is very high. So there are two steps we can take. 

Boycott such shows: The first thing that we can do is to boycott news or reality shows which engage in such malicious practices. Not just for the sake of the poor souls who end up getting exploited, but for our own sake as well. Everything that is a part of your environment, including what you watch or listen to, influences you in one way or the other. And if you allow news channels and entertainment programs to manipulate our thoughts and beliefs, you will start speaking their language and think the way they want you to. 

Call them out openly: The second thing is to call them out openly for what they have done. The reason for that is it will build public pressure on them to mend their ways. Especially when they don’t want to. Since all media houses are worried about viewership, if people succeed in communicating that they are not okay with what is being shown on their channels, they will have to stop it because otherwise their profits and more importantly, their image is affected. 

You need to dictate the terms of your relationship with the content creators of popular media. Or else you will become the content of their creation. And trust me you do not want that to happen to yourself.

Image source: YouTube

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