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Telescope: So who is guilty tonight? | The Indian Express

Telescope: So who is guilty tonight? | The Indian Express

Telescope: So who is guilty tonight?

TV news excels in fault-finding, has no time to spare for facts.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: April 19, 2018 1:42:01 am
Kathua rape case, Unnao rape case, rape protests, india rape cases, Kathua rape and murder case, BJP, Jammu and Kashmir, Congress, indian express
People hold placards at a protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl, in Kathua, near Jammu and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state. (Photo: Reuters)

If it is the ambition of every politician to be amongst the tallest leaders of the country, we suggest they resist playing politics over the rapes in Unnao, Kathua and anywhere else; alternatively, they can swallow Maha Shikar Vati which, according to its promo, increases a person’s height by upto seven inches (News 24).
Of course, #India (is)Outraged (Mirror Now) over the “Unnao Farce” (News X) and perhaps we ought to #HangtheRapists (Republic) but we are equally appalled by the political narrative that overwrites the real issue and obscures it; Times Now was right: “Stop shielding rapists” and those who protect them.
When the BJP fielded Meenakshi Lekhi at a press conference to explain the party line on the rapes, she claimed the two BJP Jammu and Kashmir ministers, who reportedly spoke at a rally in support of the accused rapists, were “misled” — oh yes, for sure. Stretching credulity beyond the limits of incredulity, perhaps? And then she accused the Congress (who else?) of politicising “women, women”. She came across very poorly on television Friday afternoon, and once the two ministers resigned later in the day, you wondered whether she was the one who had been “misled”.
By contrast, Priyanka Gandhi’s appearance at Sunday/Monday’s midnight India Gate vigil against the rapes, alongside Congress President Rahul Gandhi was good for the Congress: It got TV news reporters all wide-eyed and star-struck at that late hour — and quite breathless with excitement.
What took our breath away was the sight of the child, who was raped and killed in Kathua: Many news channels like Mirror Now repeatedly showed the girl’s photo with a blindfold and her body in the fields, thinly disguised by a mosaic. Terrible.
The BJP ought to have realised it was on the wrong side of the story over its Unnao MLA and in Kathua when channels like Times Now carried headlines like “#BJP Hatemonger MLA” “Does BJP endorse”, “BJP defends” rapists, Republic ran an incriminating video of the BJP J&K minister Lal Singh while India Today called it “Kathua smoking gun” — and all of them highlighted Rahul G’s tweet on the PM’s “silence”.
But how quickly they returned to form the moment Modi broke his silence and the two ministers resigned. “Modi draws the line” (News X), “Modi acts, Rahul Gandhi won’t” (Republic) while Zee News at 9 pm provided a chronological chart of the Centre and CBI’s pro-active actions in the Unnao case. Best of all, Times Now shifted its focus to another favourite topic at 9 pm: Shashi Tharoor. A reporter said the Delhi Police could (possibly) accuse him of abetment to the suicide of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. And the debate was off and running.
By the way, on Tuesday, when the latest edition of “notebandi” was playing out at empty ATMs across the country visited by TV reporters, CNN News 18 and Republic were diverted by breaking news: The Delhi police was in the “final stages” of investigations and “set to submit” its report in the Pushkar case.
TV news gets easily diverted. Thus, in the rape cases and even more starkly in the Mecca Masjid blast verdict on Monday, they spent inordinately long discussing the (non) existence of “Hindu terror” (CNN News 18). #HinduTerrorTheoryFlops (Times Now) — perhaps a headline like “MeccaMasjidCaseFlops” would have been closer to the truth, but does the truth matter?
No, not when you can hang a guilty sign around someone’s neck: “UPA goes into hiding” (Republic), “Did the Congress mislead nation?” on “Saffron terror” bogey (India Today). So, the story developed along expected political lines: The BJP and several news channels blaming the Congress for the case; the Congress questioning the BJP and the NIA’s role in it.
Meanwhile, viewers wanted to know the details of the verdict and how had the case fallen apart. Silly of viewers: TV news excels at fault-finding not fact-finding. Like Bollywood films, they also like to travel to foreign locales, especially starring PM Modi walking down a Stockholm street or strolling towards PM Theresa May in London — saw this footage a dozen times. They have little or no time, however, for the bombings in Syria or James Comey calling the US president “morally unfit” for the office.
Lastly, what is Glenfiddich, the famous single malt whiskey, doing advertising soda?
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