ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Unethical TV ‘News’

.

The Network of Women in Media, India, is appalled at two shows broadcast on Times Now on 28 May 2018 on the Tarun Tejpal rape case, that were both illegal and unethical. The two shows, that ran consecutively at 8 pm and 9 pm, were titled “Secrets of a Dark Night” on the India Upfront show, anchored
by Times Now editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar, and “Tejpal’s Indiscretions Caught on CCTV” on the Newshour debate, anchored by Times Now managing editor–politics Navika Kumar.

Both shows were illegal and violative of Sections 327(2) and 327(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which expressly prohibit any coverage of proceedings that are held “in camera.” The Tejpal case is currently being heard in camera before Additional District and Sessions Court judge, Vijaya Pol in Mapusa, Goa. They also constituted a violation of the guidelines laid down in the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and News Broadcasting Standards (Disputes Redressal) Regulations of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).

The shows were purportedly about the case of sexual assault filed against the owner and editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, Tarun Tejpal, by a junior colleague in 2013. She accused him of sexually assaulting her inside a lift at a five-star hotel in Goa during the magazine’s THiNK fest event in November 2013. Tejpal was arrested on 30 November 2013, but secured bail in May 2014. A charge sheet was filed in the case in September 2017 and the trial finally commenced in March 2018. No members of the media are present or allowed to cover the trial or any of its proceedings. Despite this, the show was broadcast with scant regard for the laws governing coverage of in camera trials.

The first show commenced with Shivshankar, speaking about the CCTV footage from the hotel where the incident took place and comparing it with the complaint filed. The footage was aired repeatedly in a loop, segments of it were dissected and played back and forth, all while the anchor gave his analysis and commentary on the footage and the condition of the complainant and the accused. The second show, which continued in the same vein, had female voiceovers reading out parts of the complaint, without even stating that these were recorded by others. In any event, the complaint is also part of the evidence before the court and cannot be published. 

Apart from the completely illegal act of discussing a case for which proceedings are still ongoing and media coverage is therefore prohibited by the law, the airing of footage that is evidence in the ongoing case and the violation of the provisions of the CrPC, the shows are unethical and illegal. These shows not only constituted a violation of privacy but were, in addition, “malicious, hurtful and misleading,” again a violation of the NBA code of ethics.

These shows represent a dangerous attempt to influence public opinion against the complainant and in favour of the more powerful accused. It was highly irresponsible, unethical and illegal on the part of Times Now to broadcast such shows. The channel and its anchors evidently did so in full knowledge of the legal provisions prohibiting such detailed coverage and wilfully transgressed legal and ethical boundaries.

These grossly unethical and sensationalised shows have caused immense distress and hurt the dignity of the complainant. It was thoroughly disrespectful of her feelings and emotional condition. In its insensitive broadcast of her experience of criminal assault, it has completely cast aside the basic principles of justice, which are supposed to ensure that victims/complainants of sexual assault get all due support from society in fighting for their rights. Instead of upholding the great tenets of good journalism, which is meant to empower those who fight against injustice done to them, these shows actually sought to help and bolster the perpetrator of a serious crime against women.

It is indeed highly regrettable that Times Now, a member of the NBA, has ignored the principles laid down by the first chairperson of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), the late Justice J S Verma, and the path-breaking work of the Justice Verma Committee set up to recommend amendments to criminal laws relating to sexual assault. In the race to obtain TRPs, basic journalistic tenets and the laws of the land were thrown to the wind.

We demand that Times Now ensure that these offensive and illegal shows are completely obliterated from all online platforms forthwith. We also demand that Times Now tender an unconditional apology to the complainant in this case for the untold hurt and harm it has caused her. 

Network of Women in Media, India

Updated On : 1st Jun, 2018

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top