How our media has gone completely bonkers

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: All is not too well in the immense country of Australia. Or so it seems.

A country that is known as much for venom spewing, bad mouthing cricketers who always try their best to stamp their supremacy on the cricket field, also has some grossly inefficient investigators and law enforcers. Or so it seems.

L’affaire Haneef has done to media headlines and television sound bytes in our country what even the tectonic shifting of Mount Everest probably cannot do. Or perhaps ten dozen tsunamis pounding the coasts of the world in one go!

One man gets detained in the wake of a terror attack. He cries out that he is innocent and obviously, so do his lawyers. A few weeks later, after the world, and mainly India, has been fed by the media, even the minutest twists and turns to the case, and the complete unabridged utterances of the dramatis personae, he is a free man.

The very basis of the practice of jurisprudence, anywhere in the world for that matter, obviously, unequivocally, states that no innocent man or woman or child should ever be punished. And seemingly, justice for Dr Mohammed Haneef came soon enough; his ‘thumbs up’ sign as he emplaned for Bangalore, saying it all.

Amidst the high drama the Australian authorities opened the curtain to; amidst the Indian media’s 24×7 kind of interest in the case; amidst the ‘vigil’ kept up by a brigade of reporters at the Bangalore residence of Haneef, which enabled us all to read the reports of who went in and who didn’t come out for how long—with the reporters just merely barely falling short of telling us the colour of the milk coupon for the day that was exchanged at the gate; amidst Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s inability to sleep well at night because one Indian was wrongly confined in a foreign prison; amidst the Indian government’s request to Australia to treat Haneef in total fairness; I simply cannot push an extraordinarily overpowering thought that has rendered me sleepless in Mysore for quite a long period indeed.

The thought of the media’s obsession with one case of wrongful detention, which without a shade of doubt shouldn’t have been ignored or condoned, but nevertheless definitely didn’t warrant an almost maniacal, quite ridiculously high powered focus, almost by the minute; so much so, that every single newspaper and television channel, made it look like highlighting the Haneef case was their very reason to exist as organisational entities.

To put it mildly, too is not innocent of the charge.

Who on this great earth should be telling the media that there are more Indians that one cannot perhaps even take count of, in various jails, ranging from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, from Tihar to Bihar to Kolar, just to name a few, who have been incarcerated in the most inhuman and devastatingly shocking conditions without even a remote possibility of a trial?

Who should be informing the media that among these sad, unfortunate set of human beings, a large percentage of them are completely innocent and mostly wrongly framed, either because of their misfortune which gave them a poverty ridden womb to take births in or as it happens so often in India, because of their so-called lower caste?

Who is there to tell the media that even these wretched men and women have families—mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers—who pine for their return and shed silent tears of angst and helplessness and frustration somewhere in the dingy confines of their ill lit huts? In some forsaken part of our country. Abandoned by god and law alike. With no hope of deliverance or release or liberation?

Where are all the members of civil liberties groups, and human rights activists; the kind of men and women who almost lost their voices in their quest to shout for justice for one man, Haneef; who do not deem it their duty to do the same for tens of thousands of others who have met the same fate as the doctor from Bangalore? In the jails of our land as also a few jails outside of our land?

Does the media have a conscience at all or is it just a question of taking back to the office some juicy, sensational paragraphs to write or video grabs to be aired for the world to revel in for the day?

The attention to the Haneef case bordered on a sort of pathological obsession, a kind of uncontrollable desire to beat the same tune from the same drum, while the sepulchral strains of a funereal dirge could be distantly heard from the cells of prisons around the country or elsewhere, where surely lie huddled, more than a bunch of men and women, all as much Indians as Haneef, miserable and lost, and plainly alive in body but shattered in soul. Withered and wasted.

Good night, Mr. Prime Minister.

Cross-posted on sans serif