Monday, July 26, 2010

Unseen, Unheard, Unknown

An arrow periodically blinked on the screen and flashed “He is SDO soandso, Mr. AS." The clipping showed only three shots; the nameplate of my house, my camp office and then me appearing on the screen, moving towards the camera and a camera lying on the floor.

Here I was on TV, the new-found villain of a news channel; and the Breaking story ran “Shameless Administration: SDO breaks the camera of press." An entire one hour program was dedicated to this and various intellectuals, politicians showered several imaginative phrases on me.

I do not know from where to tell the 'story.' This was my first encounter with yellow journalism; and truth being told, I was quite disturbed when it happened. But then, though on a smaller platform, I thought I too had the right to tell my side of story.

Soandso sub-division comprises of many tea gardens and living conditions there are far from satisfactory. There have been reports of Starvation deaths in some Tea Gardens, and after that government started many welfare projects there.

The recent story began when an overzealous news channel discovered that two people had died out of starvation in a particular Tea Garden. It came as a shock for us as such incidents; if any; were probable in only in closed tea gardens.

An inquiry was conducted and it appeared that news report was completely baseless. Both the persons were suffering from long term physical ailments, were financially sound and had died a natural death. While we were about to make this inquiry public, the Block Development Officer (BDO) went on two days leave.

The same news channel immediately ran the story "Impact of our reporting on Starvation deaths: BDO sent on compulsory leave by the government." My BDO got demoralized and I was furious. How could a news channel carry such a story without verification?

I talked to the channel concerned and their standard reply was that they got this news from a ‘confidential source’. After trying to show reason for some time, I realized its futility and refused to have any further communication with them. The person on the other side insisted on taking a bite from me as they believed in ‘balanced’ reporting but I politely refused.

Next day was holiday and early in the morning, two press reporters came to my house. I asked my staff to inform them that I was not interested in talking but they refused to leave without taking my bite. I got irritated and came out to ask them to leave. They had already recorded my house and without either introducing or taking my permission, they started recording me too. I asked them to stop immediately.

They refused blatantly and then it happened. I raised my hand to turn off the camera and in the commotion, some part of it got disconnected. After that they started screaming that I had broken their camera. Their bosses in the headquarter directed them to leave immediately and the 'breaking news' started. In a moment, I was turned into a camera breaking high handed monster who was enemy of press and hence that of mankind. A shot of camera lying on the ground was added to the clipping later on to further spice up the story.

The aftermath of this episode was not completely negative. All other channels/newspapers decided to support me and nobody else ran this story. Both my seniors and juniors in administration unequivocally told me that my credentials were known to all those who mattered. Numerous local people called me to say that they shall be with me come what may. Even people from press were sorry that I was being demonized by a particular news channel.

Every time I received such a phone call, there was a lump in my throat. Before this incident, I never knew people loved me so much and I was overwhelmed. My resolve to work for people became even more firm.

When I look back, I do not know how I should have reacted. How do you react to people who enter your house without your permission, refuse to leave and forcibly try to video graph you? Whatever be it, I regret things went as they did. A strange melancholic feeling persists in my heart.

I am still trying to understand how free, the free press should be!

12 comments:

Adarsh said...

Lessons ion hindsight:

1. Shouldn't have come out of the house at all....they would have run out of patience...eventually..
2. Even if you did come out, you should have stated some arbit nonsense..."no comments"..."enquiry is under process"...or if the enquiry was complete, tell them the result.
3. In any case, NEVER EVER raise your hand or even your voice while talking to the press...especially electronic media...control your temper.
4. Since you are a public figure, you cant really stop them from wanting to interview you...you cant really claim that your privacy is being disturbed. However, since they barged into your house and not your office or while you were on public duty, you had every right to politely inform them that they were invading your privacy. If they persisted, you could probably have filed a police complaint(although not sure under which act/rule.
5. If you were forced to come out and confront them, you could have told one of your chaps to carry a video camera of your own and record the entire proceedings..to prevent such tampering.
6. You could have called a press conference/circulated a press note immediately after the enquiry was complete laying out the truth.

PS: all this gyan has come only in hindsight...I would probably have actually broken his camera if I were you!!!

Kiran said...

hahaha..media persons are completely turning into assholes! remember how they made fake stuff abt IITK.i will share this blog with others..junta shud be aware of such yellow journalism.

Teja said...

hello sir,
the media persons would always try to exaggarate/fake the news to make their headline. Or they are trying to be smart by relating unrelevant aspects to accentuate their headline.
If u are regretting on the way u handled the things ,hmm its valid but I would still say don't regret anymore.You were actually not expecting this outcome.

As told by someone "If you are fooled once,its not your mistake. If you are fooled twice then its your mistake."

Im sure,after this incident,you are much prepared to avoid the mistake ;-).

saumya said...

THIS IS WHAT THEY CALL THE INDEPENDENT MEDIA.....YOU WERE RIGHT AS U HAD EVERY RIGHT TO PRIVACY..BUT THIS COULD HAVE GONE MORE WORSE HAD U BEEN NOT SUPPORTED BY ALL UR COLLEAGUES..

ashish said...

u hav a point...n a very valid point....every day we see news channels showin evrythin but news....the code of conduct applies to evry1 but media... as far as i remember govt was tryin to introduce some legislation...but then all hoopla about freedom of press....
waise ive read ur blog n i m impressed.....ull go a long way.....coz u think therefore u r...keep doin wat is right no matter how much uve 2 fight....

Anonymous said...

Very easy for me to say, but, it would have been better if you would have stayed a little calm....

vikram singh said...

You'll have to face the bad people ....thats why you are in service to face them and help the needy ones and righteous :)

Jodhbir Singh said...

People who know you wouldn't have believed the story even if it had been aired in the top news channels of the country.
It is easy for me to say but this is just the beginning of your public life. There would be many more such incidents. Just keep your hands behind your back :)

GK said...

This is what happens when stupid media controls the airspace. Not that I had high expectations from our Indian media before this, but this incident is just outrageous. I would say anurag....be wary of the media all the time. Also, its a good idea to have good key contacts inside the media.

Anonymous said...

that is what press is these days.. i also think sometimes how free they should be.. anyways i think you reacted as one should react when someone forcibly enters your house. u were lucky to get support. good luck for future.
n yes you write well

shitanshu shekhar said...

the media at all level plays d foul...even at d small taluk level.. anywayz u did jus wat u sud do... rest d "khichadi" was made by dem..as de r used of it..anywz all d best..hoping 4 yo best carrier ahed..:)

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waiting....take care:-)