Character assassination of victim and those related to the victim
Choice of story- On the day the Aarushi murder case took place, there was an incident of riot involving the killing of 17 Gujjars. The media chose to cover Aarushi Murder case, as it had the potential of a sensational bollywood style coverage, with actors enacting out the drama.
Choice of Angle- The very title-‘Aarushi Murder case’ brings out the upper class orientation of the media. Every news channel was talking about Aarushi,,having interviews of her family and friends. No effort was probed on the story or background of Hemraj.
Lies, Half-baked stories- The coverage of the murder had developed a pattern. The media used to receive ‘leaks’ and important leads of information , sometimes from unconfirmed sources, based on which the media executed almost newsroom trial with graphics, animations and sound effects. The media evolved new and new speculative theories everyday, at times speculating the personal lives of the victim and her family. But when sources of the news are unconfirmed, what credibility the news story has?
Violation of basic media norms- The news channels did not adhere to even basic media norms during the coverage. The news channels have to keep the identity of the victim and those related to the victim hidden. But this was not observed in case of the Aarushi murder case. A ‘young friend’, while being interviewed , the channel interviewing him, flashed his mobile number on national television.
The media had not covered the Aarushi murder objectively but abjectly. Competitive journalism had led to a lot of exclusive interviews by a lot of channels. Lot of incorrect information was quoted by the journalists in the news channels from unnamed and unknown sources. The channels chased ratings and sensationalism at the cost of fairness, objectivity, accuracy without concerning about the people concerned or related to the case. The channels had in a way catered to the voyeuristic thirst and was being insensitive. The sources had misled the journalists.
Media channels even made use of actor and actress to recreate the entire event that the assumed had happened. This almost lead t the fictionalizing the whole event. By doing these things, were they not only violating the journalistic ethics, but also succeeded in defaming or damaging the character of a person who is no more. All the channels had covered the entire press conference held by the police commissioner live , thereby broadcasting live the aspersions that were cast upon Aarushi her father and their domestic help, Hemraj.This again only helped in assassinating the character of a girl and person who are not alive can’t defend themselves. There was gain reconstruction of personal sms`s and mms`s.The commercial journalism had clearly overpowered ethical journalism. There was an indistinguishable mixture of news and views. The media coverage of the Aarushi murder case is the part of the larger trend of news becoming entertainment in a market driven media.
Before CBI, media only carried a trial and did telecast it in a very sensational manner.
Star Majha and IBN Lokmat used animations to show the entire scenario.
Star majha, in the very first week of the incident took place, held a talk show on Honor-killing in that one of the panelist (some psycho analyst)
accused Talwars and started analyzing Talwar's sick behavior... There was a headline which said-
"Jevha baap ch hoto vairi"
The channels had taken upon themselves to play the role of police and judge. The channels were first transform a routine cross examination of Dr Rajesh Talwar into a finger pointing exercise another Example: A channel like Times now claims to have not jumped to conclusion while covering the case, but invariably they have just ended up narrowing down it two just two possibilities that the evidence on parents role was botched up or the version given by the parents is wrong, when there are possibilities as well. It only shows the increasing tendency of the channels to jump to conclusions.
Conclusion- The media did not cover the Aarushi Murder case responsibly. The media made an opinion based rather than evidence based coverage. Everyday different news channels used to broadcast a new theory of “what could have happened”. The investigation authorities are partly to be blamed for this, as they gave away vital leads to the media along with their ‘opinions’. The media however is the watchdog and has a critical role to play in the society. The media should have stuck strictly to evidence when giving coverage to the sensitive double murder case.
Lastly, as a conclusion the question raised by Suraj Singh, who filed a PIL with the supreme court over the kind of coverage given to Aarushi murder case:”Can freedom of press be allowed to degenerate into a license to malign the character of a dead person? Does our constitution not guarantee the right to privacy even to the dead?”