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'You cannot judge and hang on a TV channel'

By A GANESH NADAR
September 04, 2020 14:47 IST
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'It has everything to do with TRPs.'
'It is a potboiler as Bollywood stars are involved.'

IMAGE: Actor Sushant Singh Rajput's cook arrives for questioning by the CBI. Photograph: ANI Photo

The death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has gone from being a case of suicide to a cause celebre, thanks to the shrill campaign by some television news channels.

The nightly overdose of conspiracy theories, fulminations against some politicians and the Mumbai police and even investigations into the case all come at a time of major developments like the raging coronavirus pandemic which shows no sign of abating, the collapse of the economy and Chinese transgressions into Indian territory, all of which seem to have been overshadowed by Rajput's death.

Upset by the nightly media trial, eight retired senior Indian Police Service officers moved the Bombay high court against the 'unfair, malicious and false media campaign' against the Mumbai police in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

Former director of general of police, Maharashtra Dhanushkodi Sivanandan is one of the petitioners in the case in which the high court observed on Thursday, September 3, that the media needs to exercise restraint while publishing news about the investigation.

'We urge and expect the media to exercise restraint before publishing or reporting on details of the investigation and report in such a manner that it does not hamper the investigation, Justice A A Sayed and Justice S P Tavade said.

Speaking to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com, Sivanandan says, "e are not asking for gagging or muzzling the media."

 

While the Mumbai police were inquiring into the case, was it right for the Bihar police to file an FIR in the same case?

It is right for the Bihar police to file an FIR. They have to file a zero FIR. Then they have to send it to the concerned police station. They should have sent it to Mumbai.

People can file an FIR anywhere. Like, when there is a robbery in a train. You file the FIR at the next station.

You are upset by the false propaganda against the Mumbai police, but what about the fact that actress Rhea Chakraborty is being crucified on some television channels without any evidence?

We are talking about the shrill coverage. They are appointing their own investigators. Hearsay is being used as facts.

News agencies cannot investigate, conduct the case and go to court. That only the police can do. The Mumbai police and the CBI are doing that.

About Rhea Chakraborty -- I am not taking sides. Let the truth come out. Let the investigation close and prove it to the court beyond doubt. The Mumbai police or the CBI has to do that.

So far no evidence has come out. Professionalism in broadcasting is necessary. There is a moral code of conduct which everyone should follow.

The court has to judge, not the media. We need a chargesheet to proceed.

What is your personal opinion in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, was he murdered or was it a case of suicide?

99% in my opinion, it is suicide.

From the evidence so far, I think he was depressed. (But) It is not conclusive proof.

This is not the first time media shrillness has occurred. It was there even in the Aarushi Talwar murder case. But no one thought of restraining the media from playing investigator and judge.
So what made you and your colleagues take this step of moving the court?

The Sushant Singh Rajput case is more hyperactive than the Aarushi Talwar case. It has gone beyond belief. They have gone sky high.

Even in the Jessica Lal murder case they had gone overboard.

Many people are happy with this case taking the centre-stage, as it keeps the attention away from the pandemic and the economy. What is your view on this?

In my view, I agree.

But a blanket ban on reporting this case might do more harm than good, isn't it?

All we are saying is, report only after authentication.

You cannot appoint investigators, you cannot charge sheet. That is the work of the CBI.

You cannot judge and hang on a TV channel.

Report only what the investigating agencies authenticate. You have to follow an ethical and moral code of conduct.

While some sections of the media may be sensationalist, the Right to Know is an important part of democracy, isn't it?

Everyone has the right to information. We are not asking for gagging or muzzling (the media). All we are asking is, stick to your own code of conduct.

What exactly are your expectations from the court?

We are expecting the court to uphold Freedom of Expression, but we would be happy if they heard our petition to tone down the shrill voices.

To publish facts, as and when the investigating agencies give them to you.

If the Mumbai police believes its image is being tarnished, it could file a defamation case.

There are two types of defamatory cases, civil and criminal. Civil cases are cumbersome.

All we want is for them (the television channels) to be restrained as per their own code of conduct.

Do you agree that the media frenzy has nothing to do with the Mumbai police or Sushant Singh Rajput, but everything to do with politics?

It has everything to do with TRPs. It is a potboiler as Bollywood stars are involved.

What can the CBI do in the case that the Mumbai police cannot?

They will investigate and take a call. I have worked with the CBI for three years. I was joint director (west zone) from 2001 to 2004.

I have complete faith in them. If they have a case, they will file.

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