As we are upto our eyeballs in the circus that the developments in the Sushant Singh Rajput case have created on prime-time news television, there has been a barrage of questions directed at the accused, co-accused, the could-be-accused, the would-they-be-accused et al.
That is the larger point. The point about speculation. While questions fly about, perhaps a pertinent one would be whether the broadcast media in our country is acting in the best interests of responsible journalism, in its quest to bring the alleged ‘perpetrators’ to book, in what it has already deemed a case of ‘foul play’ by the arbiters in the media?
The ‘tabloidisation’ of the news is not a recent occurrence, so the speculative nature of prime-time reporting is something that we have worryingly become accustomed to. Shouting matches have replaced sound debate, as ad hominem attacks, bordering on defamation in some cases, are all par for the course, in an effort to stir up already-galvanised viewer emotions.
We have witnessed the systematic character assassination of so many individuals who may or may not have a role to play in what may or may not be a case of foul play. To that end, investigative journalism has a role to play and seems to have indeed raised valid questions on the nature of the event, the due procedure followed by the law and order apparatus and of course the rejection of tone-deaf statements, as well as political undertones, that such campaigns seem to spawn almost de riguer now.
Trivial details about actors in the case leading all the way up to serious allegations, which if they go on to be disproved in a court of law, are certain to attract defamatory allegations, seem to have become the mainstay of prime-time discourse, however.
Armchair therapists, activists, journalists and forensic experts have all taken to the speculative cesspool of social media feeds to offer their two cents on the issue. Potential evidence in a matter that is sub-judice has all been disseminated and dissected ad nauseam.
Every single detail of Mr. Rajput’s life, right down to his ‘perceived’ mannerisms in his final days, has been attempted to be laid bare in front of an audience, that seems to want to whet a disturbingly insatiable appetite for the personal. Similar courtesy has been extended even to the accused in the case, that have already been put on trial in the court of public opinion.
In the case of his reported former manager, who tragically died mere days before Mr. Rajput, it took no less than her bereaved parents to exhort the media to exercise restraint, amid insensitive comments being made by them and the political class alike. News channels instead have been busy reading into their every expression while recording their pleas.
So where does it end?
The unfortunate answer is there seems to be no inclination to maintain an above-board decency in the reportage of unfortunate events such as this, when there are well-known people involved.
A rational mind would argue that in light of the bizarre developments of the case so far, Mr. Rajput, as much as any citizen of the country, deserves justice and dignity, and the accused deserve a fair trial in court, should it head that way, not in any other fora.
Any rational mind would also argue that in a democracy, the right to request for a thorough probe by the authorities in the legal system is a fair one, in a responsible manner. For cases such as this, however, that responsibility needs to be observed by the public-at-large itself as well as the reportage feeding its curiosity and upholding its right to question.