Ranjona Banerji: Kudos to TV news

10 Jul,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


Wonders of wonders, I find myself forced to praise media efforts in a few rather reprehensible cases. The first is the curious story of former athlete Pinki Pramanik. This Asian Games medal winner was accused of rape by her long-time partner. As Pramanik is female, this raised all kinds of questions and plenty of salacious interest. It is just the kind of case that the media could have gone overboard with. But instead, it has concentrated on the human rights abuses which Pramanik has been subjected to. Not only has she been put through several gender determination tests, a video clip of those tests was made public with some extraordinary scenes apparently of policemen groping her breasts. She has also been placed in a male prison, pending the rape investigation. Thanks to media scrutiny we now know that West Bengal, where Pramanik lives does not have adequate gender determination facilities. Yet she was humiliated over and over again.


This media attention will hopefully focus on the group of people who could be called “inter-sex” with indeterminate physical sexual characteristics. They may see themselves as male or female and society has to find a way to integrate them without stripping them of their dignity. Since there are situations where we see things only in the male-female perspective (like sports for instance), some greater awareness and sensitivity is needed in dealing with this issue.


The media is often accused of being prurient and insensitive. However, in the Pramanik case the current “permanent outrage” mood has come to its assistance. Both TV and print media have taken up this story from the human rights angle.




The second case is that of Suja Jones Mazurier, a mother of three who has accused her husband, French consular officer Pascal Mazurier of sexually abusing their four-year-old daughter. The Bangalore police have apparently treated her as an accused rather than a mother trying to protect her child. This is extraordinary behaviour by the police who usually decide that all accused are guilty – as in the Pramanik case – without the benefit of investigation and trial.


The media has informed us that the police not only delayed filing an FIR, they also delayed taking the accused into custody, well after it was made clear that he did not have diplomatic immunity. They also asked Suja Jones the most incredible questions as well as conducted tests on the child in the most appalling conditions.




The third case is that of the 10-year-old girl being forced to drink her own urine by a hostel warden at the prestigious Patha Bhavan school in Santiniketan. This is a case with very few grey areas and the media has gone hammer and tongs at the Vishwa Bharati university authorities for trying to protect the warden at first and slapping “trespassing” charges against the girl’s parents when they tried to rescue her as well as at the police for delaying taking action.




All these cases involve human rights abuses, exposing which has usually been the domain of NGOs. But the media now appears to have stepped in as well and upped the ante. This challenges old media notions of what is a “big” story or not and shifts the focus from politics. It might be too early to herald this as a shift towards a more mature society but it does appear to be a step in that direction.




All kudos to TV news however for having the courage and naivete to challenge old journalistic traditions, as they insist on answers for what India wants to know.


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