By Ankita Ghosh:
By mid-morning on weekends, when the whole family’s staying in, the newspaper resembles a wad of used tissue having been passed around too much with too little consideration. Last Sunday over morning tea all we could really talk about was one Indrani Mukherjea, an Assamese woman figuring right in the eye of a terrifyingly complicated murder mystery. At one point it had become quite difficult to determine exactly which was outnumbering the other; the number of twists in the plot or the number of Mukherjea’s exes.
In other news, the Syrians were seeking refuge, Tajikistan was battling home rebels and Myanmar was readying to go to the polls. The Indian media however remained more committed to Mukherjea than her supposed alibis could ever be. A woman with a life of lies and deception behind her, found herself increasingly being caught in a web she’d spun with gusto. However, from the early onset the media had been spinning its own yarn of convoluted misgivings with as much zeal. From news reports in print and TV it seemed that the Indian media had found, in the Mukherjeas’ business, its favorite soap of the season.
The media alternated between unnecessarily sensationalizing the whole issue and running into a bid for who could furnish its readership/viewership with a more tempting catchphrase. With utter disregard for the seriousness of the crime committed the media managed to divert attention from relevant investigation. In the process, the more uninformed public was left to make its own set of assumptions drawing conclusions from a pool of irresponsible news reporting. Social networking sites were flooded overnight with ‘memes’ of the victim Sheena Bora’s family tree and the convict’s romantic conquests.
As we speak a high profile murder with multiple leads is being tried in public field of vision, over three years after the actual offence was committed, and the media seems to be enjoying the opportunity for exercising its imagination this story seems to provide. Dnaindia.com, an online news portal came up with a seemingly amusing cover story that reduced the individual players of the murder to mere alphabetical variables. Hindustan Times drew up a list of horror movies delightfully equating each with the real life crime. Even the otherwise judicious The Hindu came up with headers like ‘Cast and Plot of a real-life Soap Opera’. Another web post I came across was titled ‘The Curious Case of Indrani Mukherjea’. A blood curling felony was made out to give the commoner the feel of a crime drama.
The kind of humor or sarcasm befitting, at best, a movie review was generously employed in real-time investigative journalism. A free media is often believed to be a source of unperturbed information, a tool that can guide opinion. The wayward handling of this case, however, has served the two-pronged process of violating journalistic ethics and misleading the reader. The average Twitter/Facebook user looked it up as prime-time scandal or simply made untoward moralistic judgments. Some even turned private investigator, having had Agatha Christie’s mystery series pan out in real-life. What could’ve served as a superb case study for cold-blooded homicides has sadly become an internet joke.