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'Switch on your TV at 2 am, they will scream Rhea'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
September 07, 2020 08:48 IST
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'Switch it on at 2 pm, they will scream the same.'
'Are there no other problems that the country is facing today about which people need to know or these channels must need to broadcast?'
'There has to be some limit to this naked TRP greed.'

 

IMAGE: Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty along with her brother Shovik Chakraborty arrive at the DRDO guesthouse in Santacruz, north west Mumbai, for questioning in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, August 30, 2020.
Shovik has since been arrested by thr Narcotics Control Bureau for alleged possession of drugs. Photograph: Photograph: PTI Photo

Dr Parvinder Singh Pasricha, is one of the seven retired Maharashtra police officers who have petitioned the Bombay high court against the 'media trial' of the Mumbai police in the Sushant Singh Rajput's death by suicide case.

The others petitioners are M N Singh, D K Sivanandan, Sanjiv Dayal, Satish Mathur, K Subramanyam, K P Raghuvanshi and D N Jadhav.

Dr Pasricha, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com that television news channels must stop concocting facts and draw their own lakshman rekhas (the threshold for not sensationalising the case) while reporting on the case that has clear political overtones.

What made seven DGPs and a police commissioner knock at the doors of the Bombay high court in the Sushant Singh Rajput case?

We have been watching (some news channels reporting on the death by suicide case) for the last few weeks with great distress.

Some of the channels, with their eyes on the TRPs (television rating points, a metric that helps channels earn higher advertising revenue) are trying to concoct facts that have not even come on record and are misleading and misinforming their viewers.

Such kind of reportage is ultimately going to have far-reaching consequences in the sense that the public will lose trust in the police.

We have nothing against any investigation or investigation agencies whatsoever; be it the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), the Narcotics (Control) Bureau, or the ED (Enforcement Directorate).

We have nothing to do with that. We have also nothing against the media reporting. That is their right and public also has a right to know the truth. There is no problem with that.

But the problem arises when the media concocts facts and their coverage is not based on evidence and facts.

Nobody should try to act as the prosecutor, jury, or judge; let everybody show restraint and dignity, that's all.

But who decides that the news channels you believe are concocting facts are actually doing that? How does one know that they are not reporting the facts of the case?

There is something called individual character, professional integrity, and intellectual honesty.

Nobody can mark a lakshman rekha (how the media should report); we all have to define our own lakshman rekha; we have to discipline ourselves because everybody should act with responsibility.

Nobody is setting a lakshman rekha for reporting on such cases. Every media organisation has to look inward and go by their conscience; what is right, what is not.

What makes you believe that some news channels have transgressed this lakshman rekha and trying to influence the course of investigation?

I don't want to discuss it beyond this because on the 10th (of September), the high court is having a proper hearing. Let the hearing be done and we can discuss further these finer points.

But the Mumbai police are being pilloried by some of these news channels according to your petition in the Bombay high court. What is at stake for the Mumbai police here?

I have nothing to say; as to the case is concerned, I have zero issues. No problem, no investigation problem. I have nothing to say on that or even nothing to see on media reporting.

What we are saying is that tell the public only those facts and evidences that have come on record of the investigation or investigating agencies. Do not imagine facts and mislead your viewers.

Do you believe that this section of the media is playing into the hands of politicians or is it just to ratchet up their TRPs?

I don't know. I do not want to comment on these issues. We are all professionals and our approach is very, very, professional.

I am only saying that let everybody show some discipline, define their own lakshman rekhas and inform their viewers.

They should be morally upright, intellectually honest and follow basic ethical standards of reporting.

As a former Mumbai police commissioner and Maharashtra DGP, what pains you the most, what disturbs you the most about such media reportage?

Even yesterday, even this morning, I tried almost 18 to 20 channels just to get some international news; barring WION and a couple of other channels, every other channel was screaming Rhea (Chakraborty, Rajput's partner).

Switch on your television even at 2 in the morning they will scream Rhea; switch it on at 2 pm, they will scream the same.

Are there no other problems that the country is facing today about which people, their viewers, need to know or these channels must need to broadcast?

There has to be some limit to this naked TRP greed.

What is the line that divides 'ethical', 'balanced', 'unbiased', 'objective' reporting from their opposites, which according to your petition some news channels are indulging in?

Remember that nobody can buy or sell intellectual honesty and values. These are imbibed in your system, in your soul, in your conscience.

I cannot teach anybody lessons in these moral values. Everybody has good and bad in him, weaknesses and strengths, everybody has to take their decisions themselves.

Each and every individual is the sole arbiter of what's good and evil for their own selves, for the system and for the nation.

I don't want to preach that to anybody. Everybody has their own values and one should go by his own conscience, do the right thing, the right way.

Why is this section of news channels doing it? Is it just to boost their TRPs or is there a political angle to it?

What can I say about it? You are from the media. You tell me.

We all know why this is happening, but what's the point of discussing it because that is an inevitable part of our life now.

Woh purana Lal Bahadur Shastri wala, Vajpayee wala value system to kab ka khatam ho gaya hai (That old value system practiced by late prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Atal BIhari Vajpayee has long been done away with).

The world has changed today; even we have changed.

The policing that existed 50 years ago have changed too; our system has changed, society has changed, youth and their mindsets have changed.

So, there is no point talking about the politics of it all. What is there is there.

Everybody knows about it. You know about it. I know it.

We have no plans to enter politics. We believe that everything should be systematic and fair for the country to progress and become like the countries in Europe or America or Japan.

For that, we have to inculcate certain values, build national character, build the system on these values, and it has to be a united effort.

For the last couple of months we have been subjected to this news (about Rajput's death by suicide) as if nothing else is happening in the world.

What is your message to the Mumbai police which is being hounded by a section of news channels?

The Mumbai police must maintain their poise and dignity.

They should not get ruffled by certain acrimonious and abrasive remarks (made by some news channels on their professional integrity).

They should maintain their dignity, keep doing the job.

Everything will fall in line; these are professional hazards and we have to accept them.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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