Code of Honour

In contrast, the coverage of the atrocity of December 2012 has displayed no attempt to sensationalise, or even to dramatise. Dramatisation requires at least the presence of dramatis personae, and not a single channel has revealed the name of the woman who was abused, tortured and slain. Not even after Shashi Tharoor proposed that she should be named, and that initiatives against rape should be named in her memory. Not even after her family agreed that this would be an honour.

The media has a law of omerta on reporting rape, and it has respected it in letter and spirit. Neither has it tried to turn the horror into a human drama, nor into a moral fable. Nor has there been any serious attempt to demonise the accused. Instead, there is an implicit consensus that they must face the maximum penalty under the law, by due process. And television debate has resisted the demands of lynch mobs on the streets and in social media.

Another horror story fell between Nithari and the inhumanity of December 2012 – the 2008 double murder in Noida of Aarushi and Hemraj. Television refers to it as the Aarushi murder case, erasing one victim altogether. The case occasioned some shameful coverage in which India TV, for one, decided that the father had done it rather than the butler. It ran stills with a sword of Damocles hanging over the grieving man. The caption read: "Dhongi Papa".

In contrast, restraint, decency and humanity characterised the coverage of the 2012 crime. After a slew of excesses and absurdities, media has substantiated the claim that it can regulate itself.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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