“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.”
Your brother has been accused of rape. What will be your first reaction? Will you rush to the media and make this family crisis a public circus on prime time television? Or, will you talk to your brother and find out what really is the matter and then take legal recourse depending on the situation?
Your brother may claim to be innocent (and he could very well be) and say that he is being framed. Will you not defend him? On the other hand, he could as well accept his crime. How would you react to that eventuality? Will you take an ethical stand and convince him to surrender?
You see, these aren’t a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. There are emotions and sensitivities involved and one must learn to respect how an individual reacts or responds to a personal crisis.
Your brother is a reasonably influential local politician in a small town, over a thousand kilometres away from the big city that has been your home and karmabhoomi for nearly two decades.
You are a television journalist and your profession demands you to be politically neutral and therefore you have made a conscious choice not to publicly highlight your relation with a politician. Hardly anyone in your professional circle knows about your brother and his line of work. It’s a private matter, period.
You are known never to have allowed your brother’s political affiliation cloud your professional judgement. In fact, you have made a virtue of your neutrality in a manner that is quite rare in these times of political polarisation.
So much so, that you are counted among the top exponents of your profession in this country – a fearless, outspoken journalist who often raises his voice for the downtrodden.
In most ways, you are far more influential than your brother. You are a public personality with a huge and enviable fan following. Even your fans have no clue as to who your brother is or what he does for a living.
It has taken two decades of real hard work to build this impeccable reputation and reach the pinnacle of success. Neither has anyone asked you ever about your brother in all these years nor have you made any mention about the politician in your family.
So far, so good.
But here comes the twist.
Your brother has been accused of rape and running a sex racket. And all hell breaks loose.
Mind you, he is a politician and politicians routinely face all kinds of charges all the time. I am not saying the charges are either false or true. That’s for the courts to decide.
However, people are making conjectures, drawing inferences, somehow linking you with the alleged crime of your brother. Members of your own fraternity, particularly those who have been envious of your phenomenal success, are leading a vicious campaign on social media.
They have got their one chance to vilify you – by linking you with an alleged crime by association.
These spineless leeches are being prodded by cowardly right-wing cheerleaders that perceive you as a persistent and formidable threat to their own propaganda.
They have today metamorphosed into the epitome of public morality challenging you to speak up. The same cowardly gang that kept silent when one of their own was sexually harassed at her workplace have suddenly found voice now to tarnish you.
They demand you do a television show on the plight of your own brother. However, they do not know whether they will have the courage of doing what they are seeking from you when a misfortune befalls their own.
TV wallahs thrive on sleaze
I have always believed that journalists must stick to facts and refrain from making conjectures while reporting on sensitive issues. But who can reason with these senseless TRP-driven TV wallahs, who thrive on sleaze and insinuations that emanate from personal calamities of individuals.
The more the media net worth of the subject, the greater the muck that will be generated to achieve higher TRPs. Simple math. The theory was widely on display in the round-the-clock tamasha coverage of Arushi and Sheena Bora murder cases.
Having routinely preyed on celebrities and politicians, some of these TV wallahs have now trained their guns on one of their own – albeit the one who is the leading voice against the tamasha-type content that most news channels dish out in the name of news these days.
The one, who famously blacked out the screen to defend personal attacks on a group of students, highlighting how TV debates have been reduced to debauchery.
Yes, you guessed it right. NDTV’s Ravish Kumar has been on the receiving end for the past few days of a targeted attack on social media led by a motley gang of right-leaning journalists with enough push from their online troll army.
Here’s the case:
Ravish’s elder brother Brajesh Pandey was till recently a vice president in Bihar state unit of Congress party. He resigned from the party post on 21 February after being accused of sexually molesting a minor Dalit girl, daughter of a former state minister.
Pandey has refuted all charges against him claiming that the onslaught on him was a well plotted conspiracy of the BJP, precisely because he was the elder brother of a well known journalist.
Now, who is not aware of the right-wing’s allergy with Ravish’s intrepid journalism. Pandey may or may not be a victim of the political conspiracy that he is claiming. But is it reasonable to expect Ravish to take a public stand on the matter of his own brother even when the outlines of case remains sketchy? Also considering that Ravish himself is a possible victim in this case if Pandey’s claims hold true.
That’s exactly what the motley gang are demanding. They want Ravish to crucify his brother on Prime Time. If you read their obnoxious rants against the NDTV journalist, you’ll probably make out that it is coming from years of spite against the rise of Ravish and his brand of journalism. They are least bothered about getting justice for the victim in this case. It’s more like: “We got you, finally. So we’ll put all our strength in crushing you.”
In their book Ravish is guilty for the alleged crime of his brother. It doesn’t matter that even the investigations on the case is not over yet. Trial is much further.
A case of recusal: Conflict of interest
My simple point is this: If judges and lawyers are expected (in fact, it’s mandatory by law in many countries) to recuse themselves from the case which involves a relative, friend or even close acquaintance, isn’t it logical and ethical for a journalist to refrain from commenting on a case about his brother?
It’s appalling to see Ravish Kumar being attacked for not speaking on the case. Strangely, some of these so-called experts on morality, masquerading as journalists, are demanding Ravish to do a show on the matter. It’s strange, because if Ravish makes the matter a subject of his show, the same voices will accuse him of trying to influence the case.
I would also like to ask all those so-called journalists asking Ravish to comment or do a show on the case, whether they write or make shows on all such cases involving their kith and kin?
Ethics demand that a journalist stays as far as possible from a story where there’s a conflict of interest.
Ravish has shown exemplary resolve and maintained a dignified silence so far. The matter is in court. Ravish must break his silence only after the verdict is out.
(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Janta Ka Reporter)