ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: The release of Dr Rajesh Talwar, the high profile dentist arrested in connection with the double murder involving his daughter Aarushi Talwar and man servant Hemraj, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) informed a designated court that the agency had not found “any evidence” linking him to the murders, shows the perils of the media functioning as judge, jury and executioner in the era of round-the-clock news.
Ever since Dr Talwar’s arrest on May 23, an overzealous and sensational media had speculated furiously on his involvement on the basis of bazaar gossip, leaks, plants, and other dubious sources. A moment of personal trauma became the object of a nation’s voyeurism despite the protests and protestations of the Talwar family and their lawyers. To the question “How will you compensate if the reports are found untrue?” the media had no answer. The time has now come.
Questions: Should the Talwars sue specific news organisations? Should the Indian media apologise for this disgraceful lapse in its professional conduct? How can the media set right the image of the Talwars that they so systematically demolished? Should the media use this case as an example of drawing up a code of conduct on reporting crimes that involve children, women, etc? Will it work? Will the Hindi media, which feasted on the double murder, be party to anything responsible like this? Will this case embolden I&B minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi to push the media code of conduct bill that he has been trying to push for a while, which, incidentally, the media has been opposed to?
Most importantly, does the reading, viewing, listening public have any concern for good taste or is the media only mirroring and feeding its base instincts and prurient tastes, as evidenced by its coverage of the Aarushi-Hemraj murder and countless other cases across the nation?
Does the public, in other words, want a responsible media at all? And is it capable of demanding it?