Lies and tapeshttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/lies-and-tapes/

Lies and tapes

And closure,of a sort,in a high-profile case.

And closure,of a sort,in a high-profile case.

It’s been a week of sex,lies (because someone is lying) and tapes. CCTV footage. Stings. From the “saheb” tapes of alleged conversations between a senior Gujarat politician and officials about stalking a young woman,to CCTV footage of another young woman emerging from a hotel lift in Goa after an alleged sexual assault,to members of the AAP captured “accepting” funds for favours,the dirt has been flying around TV newsrooms as it was directed towards the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate,Narendra Modi,Tarun Tejpal,former editor-in-chief of Tehelka and the AAP’s Shazia Ilmi.

The accusation of rape against Tejpal has riveted attention across channels,perhaps because he is one of the tribe. And the tribe,which has so assiduously stalked Asaram,the Talwars in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case (witness the last few days),which did not rest until the December 16 gangrape verdict,which hounds politicians on the slightest excuse,now felt obliged to turn the camera and their righteous indignation inwards. Some feel they have been digging too deep. Journalist Rahul Singh,for one,agreed with the proposition that the media frenzy since last Thursday is making Tejpal a “figure of hate” (Rajdeep Sardesai,CNN-IBN). But Sardesai and Arnab Goswami (Times Now) defended stoutly: the media was simply holding up a mirror to itself,they argued. Barkha Dutt felt Tejpal was being clinically examined on TV debates because he had failed to uphold the very values Tehelka has stood for (NDTV 24X7).

For those of us who believe television news is pitched too high,always,it was business as usual — except that this time,it is one of us in the dock. And,the media is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Had the media remained a mute spectator everyone would have accused it of recusing itself just as Tejpal had done. But when it responds in the only way it knows how (scream and shout),we accuse it of “frenzy”.

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Something good has come out of the focus on this sordid case: discussions,comments by panelists have highlighted the precarious life of the professional woman and how often women who raise questions on sexual harassment in the workplace find their character called into question. Last week,during a candid discussion on Face the People (CNN-IBN),anchor Sagarika Ghose led the way,describing her own unfortunate experience in a media office with a male boss. Other women — and men — have followed. If nothing else,Tejpal has unwittingly given voice to this silent menace.

Unfortunately,like everything on television,the debate became another “political confrontation” as Sardesai called it,Tuesday. Again,Tejpal is to blame. In his petition for anticipatory bail,he alleged that the BJP was hounding him. This allowed TV anchors to indulge in their favorite sport: discussions on NDTV 24×7,Times Now and CNN-IBN promptly pitted the Congress against the BJP: the Congress’s Jayanthi Natarajan and BJP’s Chandan Mitra exchanged fire on why the BJP recused itself from comments on “snoopgate” while condemning Tejpal’s “sexgate” in Goa.

The Aarushi-Hemraj murders verdict was under the microscope even before it was delivered. “Will the truth emerge?” Times Now asked,its reporter then saying that “a sort of verdict” was expected which would give a “sort of closure”. Nothing of the sort: those who could tear themselves away from Tejpal,dissected the “big botch-up” (Times Now) with tweezers.

In the drama following the verdict,some of the more laughable aspects of TV news were on display. A hapless lawyer,surrounded by camera/ microphone men,waited for his byte of fame but,under siege,moved to protest,“Lower them (the mikes) bhai,like you,I am also a human being”. How often have other besieged individuals felt

just so and never been able to articulate it just so?

Then,for some reason known only to them,TV channels snooped on the police vans transporting the Talwars to and from Dasna jail. Tailing the vans with a camera trained on the vehicle,all that we could see was the fortified van on the road. How exciting is that?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com