Trial by media by Faisal Hashmi (SEPTEMBER 25, 2007)

Recently ten persons were lynched at Rajapakar village in Vaishali district of Bihar. Invariably, all media reports described them as "thieves". Probably those who killed them told the police that the victims of lynching were thieves. The police, without trying to look into the facts, parroted the same word before reporters, who in their turn slavishly wrote in their reports that ten thieves were lynched.

An administrative inquiry into the event has revealed that the lynched persons were not thieves. It has said that the killing did not come in the wake of any crime or theft as described in earlier media reports, which said that the villagers were upset about a spurt in crime in the area, especially events of theft. That is why they lynched the ten "thieves" they came across.

The inquiry has found serious lapses on the part of the police station house officer, the inspector and the local deputy superintendent of police. They not only failed to prevent the massacre, but were also found lacking in professional conduct.

All this raises quite a few questions. Is there no sanctity of human life in this country? If the police cannot prevent mass murder, then what good are they for? Instead of investigating a crime why do they start blaming the victim?

The last few questions are for the media to answer. Are the media merely stenographers for police officers? Is it the sole duty of reporters to obediently jot down every word the police officers care to utter? Have the reporters no judgement of their own? How fair it is to call slain persons thieves when there is no material evidence to prove the charge. What we are witnessing in cases like that of Rajapakar amounts to trial by media.


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