The media in our country has engaged in relentless sensationalism, resorting to cheap and lowly tactics to raise TRPs and viewership. This includes airing concocted stories; violating people’s privacy by taking video footage, morphing the images and airing it against completely fabricated and sensationalistic stories; secretly taking videos of people in private parties and clubs and extorting them; and engaging in harassing and abusive conduct. One such incident of unethical, irresponsible, and victimizing behaviour is an incident that occurred on the 12th of April, 2013 to college girls from NALSAR University of Law.
Please find below a narration of the events by the aggrieved parties:
11.4.2013 – Students from NALSAR University of Law were throwing a private farewell party for the final year students at Rain, Road No. 2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. The party began at 7.00-8.30 pm. The students were checked for age proof at the entrance. The party ended at 10:30 pm and the the students cleared out by 11:00 pm. While the students were leaving, they noticed a man standing and pointing his camera at them continuously. His behavior was perceived as suspicious by everyone who had noticed him and hence one of the girls there asked the man what he was doing. He immediately began to hide his camera and avoid them. They then demanded that he hand over the video. He handed over a phone to them; however, the instrument had no memory card or video.
A mob began to gather as did the van of the news channel ABN Andhra Jyoti. While they were arguing with the man in question and his accomplices and explaining the situation to the police personnel on the spot, the camera from the abovementioned news channel was constantly filming them which caused greater agitation. The cameraman pestered them even though they were getting into the cab to leave. Further, he followed two of them upto the cab and forced his camera through the window, thus preventing them from leaving.
12.4.2013 – At approximately 6.00 a.m., TV9, a local news channel, ran a concocted news story using the video taken the night before. In their version, most of what the students were saying was censored out. Hence the reason for the fight was not recorded at all. The students were displayed as under-aged girls who were drunk and were creating a ruckus. The girls were neither drunk nor under-age. The time of the incident was reported to be around 1.30 am, which was wrong. The entire incident had wound up by 11.45 p.m. The video also blurred out parts of the girls’ bodies alongside commentary about their participation in illegal activities. Further, the intrusiveness and totally unrelated questions thrown by the cameraman clearly indicate that their purpose was not to provide actual news, but to manufacture sensational content by antagonizing a group of girls who were already trying to handle a bad situation.
The video seems to have been shared between all the local TV channels, including ABN Andhra Jyoti, TV9, Sakshi TV, Studio N, Ntv Telugu News Channel, Idlytv and News24. It was also published on several websites such as degaview.com, citymirchi.com, telugupeople.com, tupaki.com, istream.com and gulte.com.
The news channels’ portrayals of the students are without their consent, obviously misleading and even defamatory and do no justice to the gravity of the context in which the fight broke out. The issue of sexual harassment has been completely ignored. What is particularly worrisome is that this is not a standalone story. For years now, TV channels in the city seem to have made voyeuristic stories like this their USP. Cursory searches through their YouTube channels indicate several other instances of individuals being targeted by reporters waiting outside pubs and clubs seeking to create sensationalist stories out of nothing. TV9, for instance, has already faced public anger at their insensitive, homophobic ‘reporting’ on “gay culture in Hyderabad”. (Links appended to this letter.)
The number of voyeuristic stories that pass moral judgement on the lifestyle choices of individuals is alarming. Not only are they unwarranted, but they infringe on the right to privacy of individuals, who are often not in a position to protest. Further, they are blatantly defamatory, in that there is no effort to determine the truth of the allegations levelled by these media houses against those they target. This runs counter to basic journalistic ethics.
Keeping in mind the constant transgressions on the part of the media in this regard, and the absolute lack of self-regulation, we request that strong action be taken against reporters and broadcasting networks airing these videos, including monetary compensation to those defamed. We also request that all such stories currently hosted on the internet be taken down. Despite facing censure by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, TV9, for instance, has shown no inclination to cease broadcasting such stories. We request that in case of any further instance of such videos being taped and broadcast, the media houses responsible have their licenses revoked.
Instances of voyeuristic ‘reporting’:
http://www.youtube.com/user/tv9telugu/videos?query=pub (TV9, search entry – “pub”)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J5N4v6A4O4 (Druggist Girl Misbehaved With Police In Jubilee Hills – ABN)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQeFFQ6OSzQ (Police Rides [sic] on Tonic Pub at Hyderabad – Sakshi TV)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58SI5fu4hAE (Mumbai girl attacks policemen under influence of drugs - TV9)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbA_7xnR2pg (Drunken Ladies Hulchul in Hyderabad – TV9)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIf2PjR0yJY (Drunk Woman Creates Hungama – TV9)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blPH5sN_634 (Midnight Girls Halchal – TV9)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&v=bEsSUCb4MqM&NR=1 (Special Focus: Girls romance in Hostels and Rooms)
At the time that this is going out, these are all the videos that are currently online:
[ Updated list with new links added]
1.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w9ZkMy0VqU [taken down]
2.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDFa8h7GZos [taken down]
3.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umKuNAiiisk [taken down]
7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w9ZkMy0VqU [taken down]
8. http://www.sakshipost.com/index.php/videos?task=play&id=2882 [taken down]
9. http://www.telugupeople.com/videos/video.asp?id=177993 [taken down]
13. http://www.idlytv.com/news/political/2518/Dirty-Culture-in-Hyderabad [taken down]