The media have gifted the Information and Broadcasting Ministry a weapon to beat it with by trying to cash in on the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. Following an appeal from Aarushi’s mother, Nupur Talwar, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has directed the I&B Ministry to stop a prominent production house from broadcasting a serial that depicts ‘honour killing’, something that the police have said may have been the motive for the double murder. The Commission’s complaint is that it glorifies this heinous practice and turns it into a voyeur’s delight. We totally agree.
The production company is wrong on many counts. First, it is jumping the gun on a case in which investigations are still on. Telecasting this episode would amount to influencing the public one way or the other. Such a depiction is not only insensitive to the family of the deceased but it also amounts to violating the rights of a deceased minor. While there is no doubt that freedom of creative expression must be upheld, the production house that had plans to telecast the serials has a duty to ensure that lurid tales plucked from real life are not propagated and that the line between public and private space is not crosssed. The same rule applies to the news media.
The media have always resisted attempts by the I&B Ministry to try and enforce guidelines, something that sounds perilously close to censorship. So far, the Ministry has backed off. But the media have been prodding the dragon, and this time the Ministry has a good reason to step in. This obsession with cashing in on ghoulish events will cost the media the freedom that we are so proud of. By all means, present every fact and opinion, but not at the cost of obstructing justice. Or using the grief of victims and their families as fodder for so-called ‘news’.