Note: Long post, but it needed to be said. Your opinions welcome. :)
Yesterday, a TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court finished it's sentencing of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. It gave 12 death sentences and 20 life terms. On it's last day, it sentenced bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to 6 years in prison for possessing firearms illegally. The court must be praised for being impartial and not letting Dutt off lightly just because he's a popular celebrity and a "good, honest person" according to his co-stars.
But the media aren't giving the issue the snubbing it deserves. Rather, news channels hold long debates over whether he should be sentenced, hold opinion polls (over SMS: they have a deal with the SMS companies so that the money goes to them), asking his co-stars their reactions, and even stating what he'll get to eat in jail (and that he'll be in the same barrack as ganster Abu Salem, not with his friend (who's also in jail, you see) Yusuf Nulwalla).
Sanjay Dutt is hogging space which should have been filled with debates about the death penalty, terrorism, and how the accused in the '93 riots should be tried too. But the media just wants TRPs (Television Rating Points), and ironically the same channels and papers Prez Kalam asked to aid in "nation building" during the Ramnath Goenka memorial debate. Who cares about what effects this trial has had on the other accused and the muslim community in general; people want to hear about Dutt, so we give them Dutt. One wonders when this rationale will die out. Even Kalam's advice is blatantly ignored.
One more thing irritated me tremendously recently was the coverage given to terror suspect Mohd. Haneef's return from Australia. I guess the people have already decided Haneef is innocent, because he's an Indian. I wonder what the case would've been if he was a Pakistani? Australia now says his chat records show his foreknowledge of the British terror plot. I saw an interview the other day where he said he had no knowledge of it: did he lie? Either way, I'm not so sure he's innocent. But his return was celebrated all right (garlands and all. They greet a terror suspect (ok, no longer so) with garlands. What next? Sigh.)
And news channels were so obsessed with him that night that they even broke into his home, trying to interview the clearly distressed Haneef. (Actually, only one channel did, and it bragged about having the only TV camera inside the house. So much for CNN IBN. Would NDTV have done the same?)
Lastly, I'm SICK of page 3 and celebrity news. A whole section of the paper is on these people who I guess deserved the print because, generally, they're actors, socialites (what the @#$! is that?), or porn stars (you know who I'm talking about)... and specifically because they got their divorce, went vacationing somewhere, or released a crappy movie or album. I wonder why Ingmar Bergman's death didn't get the same coverage as Britney's divorce? The real people who entertain and inform us are never covered. Bombay Times is covered with posers and attention hogs.
You can say I should just ignore it. Sure. But my ignoring it won't change it. The real damage is because media actually affects people's thinking about stuff. If it covered Bergman's death, more people would want to see his films. If they papers gave one page coverage to the riot accused and why they should be treated as harshly as the blast accused, people will discuss it. When I heard Kalam's advice, I thought it was a pretty obvious thing to say but difficult to carry out. But the last week has changed my opinion. The media can engage in "nation-building", as he said, but they lack the will to do so. Are they even aware of it?
Do comment. A little discussion never fails to enlighten.