TV coverage in India goes haywire after Bollywood actor’s death
MUMBAI (INDIA) – The demise of a young movie star Sushant Singh Rajput has landed Indian media into a quagmire.
While it has stirred a debate about the stigma of mental health, nepotism in Bollywood, and non-stop coverage of the accusations between Rajput’s family and his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty.
On Tuesday, Chakraborty was arrested by India’s narcotics department, citing links to a drugs case. She refuted any wrongdoing.
India’s TV channels have given more airtime to the Rajput case than other equally worthy stories such as India’s surging COVID-19 caseload, a plane crash and top political stories, according to the Broadcast Audience Research Council.
The federal police, the High Court in Mumbai, and the government watchdog Press Council of India have raised strong remarks against coverage of the investigation.
Nidhi Razdan, who recently left NDTV to teach journalism, said, “I spent 21 years in television and I’ve never seen a race to the bottom this bad,” said.
“It is a media trial. What else is it?” she said. “I haven’t seen this kind of viciousness in coverage before.”
Chakraborty, 28, was regularly chased by reporters during her public appearances.
According to Rajput’s family claims, she poisoned him, used black magic and is responsible for his death.
Chakraborty said in an interview with television anchor Rajdeep Sardesai in late August, “There has been a conspiracy to break me and my family and my spirit. It is the systematic breakdown of an innocent family, an innocent girl who loved an innocent boy.”
“Sickening,” journalist Swati Chaturvedi tweeted. Alaka Sahani, a senior Indian Express journalist, said, “The visuals of Rhea being hounded makes my stomach churn and puke.”
The Press Council of India has urged the media not to “conduct its own parallel trial.”
However, some television editors have time and again defended the coverage.
Arnab Goswami, editor of Republic TV, last week was all praise for his channel’s coverage to ensure that Rajput’s death wasn’t “whitewashed” as a suicide.
“I pushed, I pressurised, I connected the dots,” he told news website OpIndia. “In the process, if I’ve done a media trial, I’m happy I have done one.”
Goswami did not respond to a request for comment. His exclusive show, The Debate, had the hashtag #ArrestRheaNext running last week.
Soon after her arrest on Tuesday, the channel started using the tag #RheaArrested.