On April 11, 2013 a group of four female and one male student from Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad were leaving a pub at 10.30pm. They were waiting for a cab to take them home. Which is when they noticed that a man was videotaping them on his mobile phone. Soon enough, a reporter got into the act and started videotaping the group despite being asked not to. Soon news reports were being aired on regional news channels – ABN Andhra Jyoti and TV9 – claiming that the students were drunk and were exhibiting unruly behaviour outside a pub in Hyderabad.
Since then however, a can of worms has opened up. Accusations and counter-accusations have been hurled around. The students have taken to social media and made a concerted effort to get the videos pulled off-air and expose the facts.
What was the crime that these students were committing that the media needed to rush to the spot and videotape them and carry the footage on air? Did the channels overstep boundaries and start playing moral police? Here is what transpired that evening.
Megha, Prachi, Shruthi, Adwitiya and Dipankar– students from Nalsar University of Law were attending a farewell party hosted for them by their juniors at a pub called ‘Rain’ in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Everyone’s IDs had been checked at the entrance and no one was underage. It was only when they left the pub at 10.30pm, the closing time, that the trouble began.
A stranger was spotted recording them on his/her mobile phone and refused to stop even upon being requested to do so politely. The person accompanying the man with the mobile phone made statements like “sister, I am your brother, come talk to me”. According to Shruthi and Prachi, they successfully managed to snatch the phone from the man’s hands. The group then got into a cab and drove off. As they attempted to delete the videos on the phone, they discovered it was in fact the wrong one. They then returned to the pub, according to their account, with the following objectives:
a) Contact the police and hand over the phone.
b) Try to get the real phone.
c) Check on the juniors.
When they returned to the pub, a TV reporter and scores of people were waiting for them. The man with the phone and his friends demanded the girls return the phone. The TV reporter in the meantime kept filming the girls and even thrust his camera inside the cab in which Shruthi was sitting.
Not once did the TV reporter bother turning his camera on the man with the mobile phone who kept videotaping the girls. Both people with cameras seemed to have just one focal point – the girls. Two similar narratives running in parallel without a linear connect. This is how films are made, not news reports. And even films have a linear connect somewhere along the way.
That the TV crew did not really have anything of importance to say about the incident is obvious from the TV reporter’s question to Shruthi while pushing his camera into the cab – “What is your opinion of the media?” Who is this brilliant reporter you ask? We’ve been told his name is Srinivas.
You wouldn’t guess this was the flow of events if you watched the final news report which appeared on the channels.
The question is, what warranted the girls making the news? They were not drunk, they weren’t disrupting peace or going against the law and order of the state. They were merely standing outside a pub, waiting for their cabs.
Following the incident, the girls contacted TV9 and Andhra News to get the videos pulled off air. They were informed by the channels that the channels had done nothing wrong and it was in fact the girls who were socially wrong.
We spoke to Chief Bureau of ABN Andhra Jyothi, Shivaprasad to ask him what made this incident newsworthy.
|Newslaundry: Who informed you about the incident outside Rain pub? |
Shivaprasad: Some people on road informed the reception.
Newslaundry: What was the information you received?
Shivaprasad: That there were many girls, and boys, on the road. They were actually playing outside the gate and throwing stones at each other.
Newslaundry: What was the story you had in mind?
Shivaprasad: Of course, the pub was running after 10 o clock. Everything that happened was against the law.
Newslaundry: How was it against the law?
Shivaprasad: It is wrong for them to drink and stand outside. Why should they stand outside? Nothing personal against the girls, but you shouldn’t stand on the road at midnight dressed like that. Our main concern is for safety of the girls.
Newslaundry: Then where should they stand?
Shivaprasad: They should not stand like that. They should go straight into the cab and go home.
Newslaundry: So, you think it was a highly unsafe situation?
Shivaprasad: When the media reached there, the girls are safer, if the media is not there, then it’s a problem.
So did the girls feel safer when the media reached there? Here’s what they had to say.
The students have since gotten the TV9 videos removed from Youtube and have garnered support on facebook through a moral petitioning page and have posted two petitions on the page. The first demands a public apology from the news channels and asking that the videos be taken down. The second addresses the larger issue of voyeuristic journalism.
If you thought that the media might have learnt from the incident on July 9, 2012 in Guwahati, where Gaurab Jyoti Neog – a reporter from News Live – spurred on a mob to molest a girl outside a bar so that he could capture the footage, think again. It seems that for some journalists and media houses, all that matters is catching eyeballs and getting TRPs. Nothing is too low. What this has managed though, is to elevate these channels into the coveted discourse of mainstream media.