Joined: 24 July 2014
Since the day of Salman Khan's conviction and subsequent bail, the media had gone berserk in covering it and commenting upon it. Those with a platform to scream and shout were doing so to their heart's content. The rest were using every possible opportunity in traditional or social media to make vicious attacks on him in the garb of sympathy for the poor or concern for the judicial system in India.
Every freelance journalist/columnist was giving lessons in morality and shedding tears for people he/she didn't care about for the last 13 years. The suit was followed on the social media as well.
Salman Khan at Bombay High Court
It was not a coincidence. The outrage was being engineered. The sudden concern for everything that is bad with the Indian judicial system also, was deliberate and timed for a particular purpose. Media's conduct in all this was highly objectionable and condemnable to say the least.
Media chose to selectively inform, misinform, mislead and criticize baselessly. They arranged debates on wrong premises and tried putting words in people's mouths. Some media houses ran twitter hash tags that were sure to invoke strong for & against' views. It was actually an exercise in unnecessary maligning of the man as the against' brigade was bound to go ballistic.
They used Salman's name and popularity to gain TRPs & eyeballs and then dished out the spun, warped reports and opinions to this increased viewership and readership, to denigrate him further. They had been at it for years and this verdict provided an opportunity to take it to a new level.
Let's see a few tricks that were being played for a while and some new ones.
The Power of Repetition - First and foremost, they termed it as a Hit and Run' case and drunk driving' case even before all the details were out and even before the trial started. For the last 13 years, they freely referred to Salman Khan as the person who killed people sleeping on the pavement with his reckless, drunk driving'. They had given their verdict even before the trial started and this constant reference for years affected people in such a way that everybody started taking it for granted.
Many a times, accident was described in such a fashion as if the reporter were inside the car when everything happened. On what basis and with what authority they were doing it is anybody's guess. But the result of this ceaseless repetition is such, that now even if it is proven beyond doubt and with clinching arguments that Salman was not driving the car and was not drunk; people will find it hard to believe.
The inordinate delay - Media harped a lot about the delay without mentioning even once that this is how Indian courts work and a verdict coming after 15-20 years is no big deal. Suggesting and letting people think that the delay has been caused by the defense suited them better. They also did not bother to talk about statements like this one from victim Abdullah Rauf Shaikh who has said on record, "During the course of case there was no attempt to bribe me by any one, to change or to rehash my statement. Police called me according to the dates and I went and gave my statement whenever I was asked to. There was no pressure, I said what I saw and experienced. My statement was never tampered with." Apart from Abha Sing's empty claims, there was nothing they could show as an effort from Salman's side to cause a delay. Yet, they didn't stop suggesting that the defense has purposely delayed the case.
Ten Years' Imprisonment - Once the clause of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was added and fresh trial started in 2012, they deliberately started mentioning 10 years imprisonment everywhere. The much discussed clause IPC 304 (II) also has the option of only fine as the punishment. The punishment could be 0 to 10 years of imprisonment, a fine or a combination of both and not only 10 years imprisonment as hammered by the media.
This provision of fine was not mentioned at all. Every single time if there was even a passing mention of the case, they made it a point to say that Salman can face up to 10 years of jail term. Then the words up to' slowly disappeared and he was facing a 10 year jail term'.
All this made people believe that if convicted he is going to be sentenced to a 10 year jail term. So, when the five years' sentence came which itself was harsh, people felt it was less and a favor is being done to Salman Khan.
The Bail drama - It was pretty clear that the case was going to the High Court. Yet, they ran stories of how Bollywood is going to be affected and created an atmosphere that made people believe, it's all over for Salman khan and now he is going to spend five years in jail.
Salman's was obviously a fit case for bail and he was going to get the bail sooner or later. Even though his bail was a result of preparedness and swift action of his lawyers, they made the bail itself look like a gross injustice.
It was discussed incessantly and despite assurances by the lawyers that there is nothing irregular about it, the TV anchors and press reporters did not budge from their stand. They ran provocative headlines when they knew there is nothing unusual about both the things. And then the entire line of reporting was fashioned like this. They tried to give a feeling of common man being wronged which evoked just the reaction that they wanted.
Problem of Undertrials without bail - This problem was mentioned time and again to convince people that it is a grave injustice to grant bail to Salman. The fact is these undertrials can't get bail as they don't have money to pay for the bail bond. This is an age old problem and nobody can do anything about it apart from may be paying that money for them. If this problem is to be made the basis of any decision of granting bail, then nobody in India would get bail, ever.
Media used the problem of undertrials to the hilt by giving only partial information in a suitable manner and made people get really angry with Salman's bail.
The truth of compensation and helping the victims - They kept shouting about victims not being compensated. They chose not to mention or hide the fact that after the accident, HC had ordered Salman to pay Rs. 19 lakhs as compensation to the victims which he promptly deposited with the government. (The kin of the deceased did not get compensation as they were fighting among themselves and their share still lies with the govt.) Most importantly, HC instructed Salman not to give any further help or contact the victims as they might get influenced. He was stopped from helping Ravindra Patil for the same reason.
Media knew the exact status of compensation and also knew why Salman's hands were tied yet they kept going on and on about how he has not helped the victims in the last 13 year.
Curious case of Ravindra Patil - Just before the verdict was to be announced, the story making a hero out of Ravindra Patil suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started circulating widely without anybody bothering to verify. The fact is Ravindra Patil changed his initial statement and added the detail of Salman being drunk to his new statement given later. According to some sources, he was indeed under pressure but it pertained to involving Salman khan and not the opposite.
Patil's testimony, his absence from hearings, his running away and his being abandoned by his family are actually a matter of separate investigation and not a black and white story as depicted by the media. Media not only portrayed Ravindra Patil as a hero but also tried to make people believe that Salman was responsible for his death.
How dare you Sympathize with a criminal'? - Salman got a considerable support and sympathy from many quarters as the sentence looked harsh and dismissive of even the valid defense arguments. People who knew Salman closely obviously expressed their shock and support on twitter. Unfortunately, Abhijeet and Farah Khan Ali tweeted something stupid and the media pounced upon this chance to dismiss all the sympathy from Bollywood as that of heartless, insensitive and selfish people.
If a brother, a friend, a dear colleague or somebody one knows well, likes or respects happens to be in such a situation, anybody will react the same way. But this basic fact was not recognized. Abhijeet and Farah Khan Ali cannot be considered representatives of Bollywood by any parameter yet media insisted it was so. Every sympathetic reaction was pushed in the same category as these two and then the entire fraternity was slammed.
Sympathizing with Salman was equated with being indifferent to the accident victims even though these two things are not mutually exclusive. It was made to look like a sin and termed as siding with the criminal'. This also applied to fans and other sympathizers. Anybody who was not showing a vicious glee for Salman's sentence was shamed and slammed. This was more true of Print and social media.
Bringing up the past gossips - As if the negativity being generated with reference to the case was not enough, they kept talking about unrelated things in his past. These controversies in the past were actually baseless gossip spread by the media in the first place. And whether it was past or the present; the massive charity work that he does through Being Human and even outside of it, was not supposed to be talked about.
Whenever the issue of charity was brought up by the fans and the sympathizers, it was dismissed or trivialized by the media people, especially on social media.
In short, Media made use of common man's ignorance or obvious lack of knowledge about legal proceedings as well as other facts about the case and used it for working up a public opinion against Salman.
Their job was to state things as they are, report in a matter of fact manner and remain impartial even if they were inviting opinions from people. But they made it a point to spin it against Salman and engineer an outrage against him. When it came to reporting about the mood of public, they continued in the same vein and highlighted resentment more than the support and kept the campaign going. This applied to TV as well as the print media and internet. If we add the social media to it, it was nothing short of a witch hunt.
Sadly, even in future; a dispassionate, matter of fact reporting, intelligent debates by real experts and giving opinions in unbiased manner is going to be too much to ask for, as far as Salman's case is concerned.
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