Aaj Tak Being Fined for Faulty Coverage in SSR Case, is the Only Way to Keep Media Accountable

Social Commentary

Aaj Tak Being Fined for Faulty Coverage in SSR Case, is the Only Way to Keep Media Accountable

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The whirlwind approach TV news channels took while covering the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput is catching up with them. The News Broadcasting Standards Authority has decided to fine the channel Aaj Tak a sum of ₹1 lakh after it telecast fake tweets wrongly attributed to Rajput as part of its coverage. In addition to the fine, Aaj Tak also had to issue an on-air apology for its content. Along with Aaj Tak, the channels Zee News, News 24, and India TV were also directed to air an apology. However, Aaj Tak was the only channel that was fined.

In their quest to grab eyeballs through sensationalism, the channel pulled up by NBSA had resorted to airing images of Rajput’s dead body, as well as crude headlines that were found offensive. The NBSA’s statement said, “While it is the duty of the news channel to report news, which may be in public interest and the persons being reported upon may get justice from such media reports, it is equally important to present the news in a manner which does not violate the privacy of the dead nor sensationalise a tragic incident.”

The media has not presented a positive account of itself throughout the coverage of Rajput’s suicide. While the first few days were marked by sensationalist coverage of his suicide, once the conspiracy theories about Rajput’s ex-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty having played a role in his death began receiving airtime on news channels the idea of ethical reporting was completely abandoned by most channels. A clamorous media trial ensured that Chakraborty was vilified and judged guilty in the court of public opinion long before the CBI investigation reported that Rajput’s death was in fact a suicide and not a murder.

Now that it’s becoming clear from the CBI and AIIMS reports that Chakraborty was not a murderer like news channels made her out to be, will their next apology be for her? Given the state of Indian media, it seems unlikely.