Anil Thakraney: Aren’t journos human beings?

15 Jul,2012

By Anil Thakraney


Friday’s non-stop TV coverage of the Assam molestation incident reminded me of the horrific rape of a minor girl by a drunken man on a Mumbai local train. As seven people (including a journalist, who later filed the story) stood watching and did nothing. I recall having a drink that weekend with a friend, and after a few pegs we both declared we would have chucked the rapist from the moving train. Tabartop justice! Maybe it was the booze talking, but that’s not the point.


The point is that it has always been a matter of doubt as to what a journalist must do when confronted with a live, unfolding tragedy. Should he or she intervene? Or should he or she stick to recording the incident, which is actually the job of a journalist. There are no easy answers to this one and even when there are, opinions are highly polarized. I put this question to acclaimed photographer Raghu Rai, who has shot many live tragedies in his lifetime.


This was a part of the interview I did with him for GQ magazine. He is very clear on the issue: “If a person is dying, even if it’s a very close relative, I would first film it, and then see if I can save the person. If the issue concerns the nation, then I would like the nation to see it. And discover what kind of a nation we have become. We are not doctors or social workers, we are photographers. And our first duty is to take the picture and then do the rest.”


Of course, there’s merit in what he says, and I suspect this must be the opinion of many journos. You have to tell the world about the horrific things going on, else there’s little possibility of change. But after having pondered over this matter for some time, I have reached the conclusion that we journalists have to be human beings first. In the place of the cameraman who filmed the girl being molested by so many perverts (and that is if the dude didn’t provoke the crime, as some people allege!), I would first call the cops, and then jump in to try and save the girl. And this is no hindsight herogiri, this is most certainly the right thing to do for any sensible human being.


Later, I would tell the story and put out the images of the culprits. Isn’t that what really matters? Broadcasting footage of an unfortunate girl being traumatized serves no purpose beyond offering voyeuristic pleasure to some depraved souls. And if you have credibility on your side as a journalist, your readers and viewers will believe your version of things. Indeed that is what journalists must first try and accomplish: Credibility. Scoops and news breaks can wait.


What happened with the young lass in Guwahati is appalling. But given our lax laws and weak law enforcement machinery, and given the general lack of ethics in this nation, such stuff will happen on our streets again and again. But this incident must serve as a reminder to journalists that being human must come above all else.


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PS: Some of the most repugnant ads created across the world. What amazes me is not that they were created… creative minds can often be wicked… but that there are clients who agreed to run these. Wow

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One response to “Anil Thakraney: Aren’t journos human beings?”

  1. John says:

    Good post. Reminds one of this joke.

    A Harley Biker is riding by the zoo in Washington, DC when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.

    Whimpering from the pain, the lion jumps back, letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly. A reporter has watched the whole event.

    The reporter addressing the Harley rider says, ‘Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.’

    The Harley rider replies, ‘Why, it was nothing, really, the lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.’

    The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, you know, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page… So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’

    The biker replies, “I’m a U.S. Marine and a Republican.”

    The journalist leaves.

    The following morning the biker buys the paper to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads, on the front page: