Draw the Line



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Death. Right in your face. How appetising would you find it?

That is a poser that I would like to throw at those who broadcast the most odious footage without batting an eyelid.

The Gurgaon toll plaza incident didn’t just reflect an off-kilter law and order situation; it was disgusting. A man was shot and then shown collapsing to his death. He was killed over a squabble for Rs 27 toll fee, showing the basest of human tendencies and stone cold insensitivity.

And it was beamed into our houses – right into the bedrooms; repeatedly.

Hardly any channel blurred the pictures; a murder was passed for broadcast without a second thought. The anchors did not even give an apologetic warning of - “some pictures can be disturbing!”

How banal and thoughtless can media be? Did someone consider that kids could have been watching? And they did. That people with weak hearts may have tuned in? That somebody could have been having a meal? Or simply even that ordinary people were catching up on news!

My mother walked into the room and asked me what was going-on on the screen. I remained silent. She deserved better than watching a gruesome murder and a pitiable death. Everyone deserves better.

And this is not the first time something like this has happened. Unsettling pictures from accident and crime sites are often shown as matter of routine.

Most of the western media had no compunction in televising the assault of the Hong Kong teen; when he was attacked with knives and then looted by young kids who pretended to help him.

David Cameroon had rightly called the assault a reflection of their sick and broken society.

Again, did it have to be thrust in my face for me to know or believe that such scenes were a part of the London riots?

I also unfortunately remember some grisly pictures splashed in a leading Indian daily showing cruelty towards animals. The photographs were so graphic and violent that my stomach had turned.

I am unable to efface that blood tainted image from my memory. However hard I try.

Death is one of the greatest realities of life. But it is also possibly one of the most discomforting.

Deaths that surround us in ordinary circumstances, like those of our near and dear ones, are disturbing enough. What then of those that are accompanied by acts of inhuman spite and brutality?

News must be reported, but there have to be broad borders beyond which we should not venture. We need to be told that such revolting episodes do take place. But we should not be forced to see them so explicitly.

Media must admit that it is neither advisable nor admissible to make a death a saleable property to garner viewership numbers. We are humans and need to behave like humans.

To decipher what is egregious to human sensibilities, a little bit of sensitivity would probably help.

Under all circumstances, a line must be drawn.