When Media Takes Over Justice: Why The Jasleen Kaur Case Is Journalism’s Failure

Posted on September 7, 2015 in Media

By Ahmad Shariq Khan:

It all started with 20-yr old Jasleen Kaur, a Delhi resident, taking the help of social media to ‘name and shame’ her alleged molester.

As the story went viral in a post-Nirbhaya, media triggered, pro-feminism environment (fueled by fierce pitching by AAPians & Bhakts); Twitter trends, Facebook statuses, and many News anchors soon started speaking of Sarvjeet Singh as a ‘pervert’ and ‘molester’.

jasleen kaur

Wouldn’t it have been nicer if our media outlets, in their unending quest for ‘hot trending news’ (which they could repackage as the most important agenda before the nation), should have waited for Sarvjeet to come out of the Police station and tell his version too?

I believe, in the absence of any evidence or eyewitness, our media, including Arnab Goswami and his many clones on different channels, should have given both of them the benefit of the doubt. But in actuality we witnessed that a section of media chose to put on their Chief Justice of India avatar in their studio based kangaroo courts.

I feel like asking the media owners and their teams of researchers – what are they doing there? Isn’t it high time they realize they are into serious business, with manifold repercussions of their broadcasts, which can make or mar lives? And, unlike a free virtual playground or war-zone that social media offers, are they not bound by certain codes of conduct by institutions like News Broadcasters Association and Press Council of India? How could they forget that according to PCI’s norms of journalistic conduct- accuracy and fairness, and pre-publication verification figure as the top most important guidelines? It also further reminds them, “while it is the duty of the press to expose the wrong doings that come to their notice, such reports need to be backed by irrefutable facts and evidences”. Similarly, News Broadcasters Association’s code of ethics specifically urges them to, “make it their mission to seek the truth and to report it fairly”. Now, the readers can judge whether these guidelines were really respected or were just tossed aside?

Further, I ask our fellow citizens: can we really afford to turn so myopic to repeat the blood-baying misadventure, led just by public and media trial? Have we really forgotten the lesson from Nagaland mob lynching, Rohtak Sisters or Mumbai’s Muslim girl’s claim about bias due to religious affiliation?

Most importantly, we should not and cannot afford to be unfair to Jasleen and brush aside all her claims. So, till the law takes its course we must stop bullying the two of them. The fact is, in India, thousands of crimes against women do take place each day, and countless go unreported or never see the light of the day due to the lack of evidence. So just because a counter–argument has surfaced against a lady this time, are we going to encourage our cops to turn away every woman who reports of molestation (minus any evidence)? No, we should never do that. We must listen to their grievances with utmost sincerity. In India which is still a male chauvinistic society, it takes a lot of courage to come out and report crimes against woman. Hats off to Jasleen for holding her ground.

Also, we need to question age-old stereotypes. Imagine, if a cyclist hit a pedestrian or a car knocked a cyclist, won’t the majority advice the cyclist/ car owner to mend his ways. Similarly, if a lady is seen shouting at someone on the road, then we generally tend to get the feeling that the guy must be at fault. However, I really appreciate the fact that good sense seems to be prevailing across the country. I believe individuals such as journalist Deepika Bhardwaj, who rightly questioned the absence of the man’s version of the story and actor Sonakshi Sinha who has apologized to Sarvjeet for judging him, should be called bravehearts for not following the herd mentality. To sum up, I just want to say that vigilantism is good but it must go together with a greater sense of responsibility. For girls in India, I just pray that this incident doesn’t in any way add to the message given in the famous Aesop fable – The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Journalism cannot be public relations nor can it be character assassination, said Rajdeep Sardesai.
We better leave journalism at that, else we all are doomed.