Talwars, Shashi Tharoor are all victims of trial by media: News channels give fourth estate a bad name

Railroading high-profile personalities because it sells a story is now quite common. In fact, it's becoming the norm to do so. It comes from the media's smugness, combined with the arrogance and the knowledge that nobody is going to take them on, regardless of what they say.

The acquittal of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case is a recent example, especially now that it's being underscored how certain media channels "went after" the couple and played judge, jury and executioner. The spearhead and mascot of this new school of audio-visual journalism Arnab Goswami shepherded high-profile matrons, dowagers and so-called "society figures" into his studios, and pushed them to agree that his version was the truth.

Talwars, Shashi Tharoor are all victims of trial by media: News channels give fourth estate a bad name

Shashi Tharoor was hounded by the media over his alleged role in Sunanda Pushkar's death. AFP

The J’accuse texture of the talk shows were shrill, full of outrage and both barrels loaded with cheap shot. Guilty as hell was the television verdict and it swayed public opinion. Even the Supreme Court had to admonish the media to be more circumspect and not play footsies with the imaginatively circumstantial.

Much the same had unfolded with the murder of Sunanda Pushkar, and the same gentleman's panels were activated, and the guilt of Shashi Tharoor was tossed around like a bean bag. The general conclusion by people who supposedly "knew" Pushkar was that Tharoor, erudite as he is, had to have a hand in the death of his wife. It's upsetting that Tharoor had to be cut to size because of his silver tongue.

This opinion was aired by the same coterie of high society dukes and duchesses, and as envy leaked from every pore, they castigated and destroyed Tharoor's reputation with ill-concealed glee. And malice.

On 9 May, 2017, Tharoor hit back at the Goswami effort to malign him. "A so-called journalist comes w/an agenda2disrupt the rest of the media in order to create attention for his channel. Not interested in truth," he tweeted.

While the Talwars may desist from taking on the mighty media moghuls and put the terrible years behind them and move on, a person like Shashi Tharoor will likely go to war once the mists have cleared and he is given legal benediction. He will definitely be keeping his powder dry for a return match.

This brings us to the main development: Pressure is building — even if it is nascent — on seeking financial restitution from the media as a direct fallout of this mad hurtle to hurt for TRPs and eyeballs and footfalls and all those clever buzzwords that have compelled enough of us to drop the basic tenets of journalism.

Unfortunately, talk shows seem to have entered the realm of self-destruct largely because viewers themselves have gone into diminishing returns and forgotten that their intelligence is being insulted by the trivialising of the serious.

But even more serious is this desire to profile an individual as a criminal and go for broke, making titillation, indignation and righteous wrath the priorities, rather than fact and truth.

The danger faced now is that the rest of the media might have to pay a price for its relatively mild incursions thanks to the violent inroads made by these talk show hosts. Give or take a few years, everybody will begin to defend themselves against the fourth estate, as the number of the "victims" grows.

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Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 13:29:15 IST

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