Actor Sushant Singh Rajput has died by suicide at the age of 34, sending the entire nation into shock. But as if this sudden loss of a young talented person was not numbing enough, Indian media made it worse with their insensitive coverage of the incident. A father who had just lost his young son had a mic shoved into his face. Images of Sushant’s body were shared along with graphic details of how he ended his life. Once again Indian media proved its incapability to mend its ways just for the sake of TRP.

Who gave these agencies the right to write off a person, that too in the wake of his death?

This couldn’t be for real, I thought when I read this headline about the actor being a “hit wicket” by a leading Hindi news channel. But then another one dubbed him a “fail” passing a verdict on his career and his life. The gradual descent of news channels from vessels of information to opinionated mouthpieces is something we are all aware of. But who gave these agencies the right to write off a person, that too in the wake of his death?

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The entire episode has brought back horrifying media circus that ensued after the death of actor Sridevi. Who can forget “Maut ka bathtub”? The gory details and speculations on Sridevi’s death and who could be involved, along with cringe-worthy graphics that enacted how the actor may have died? No one thought we could go beyond the low that was achieved in covering Sridevi’s death. In fact, we were expecting media to have learned a lesson or two about sensitivity due to the backlash that had followed. And yet here we are.

What You Should Know:

  • Actor Sushant Singh Rajput has died by suicide at the age of 34.
  • His former manager Disha Salian had passed away last week.
  • The actor rose to fame for his performance in the film MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
  • Media has been receiving backlash on social media for its coverage of Sushant’s death.

Cameras staring at a bereaved father lying on his bed, a sister crying, an uncle looking overwhelmed by the entire situation that a family clearly not prepared to handle exposure to media found itself in. And this is just not about reporting. A clip is circulating on Twitter showing an actress invited to speak on a panel discussion (yes, on someone ending their life) touching up her make up on live television, because clearly the channel was too busy to notice. I also read that one news channel allegedly shared the image of Sushant’s body without bothering to pixelating or at least blurring out his face. I expected this from my WhatsApp groups, but certainly not any news channel.

Who is watching such coverages and why are these people not changing the channel?

The insensitivity shown is beyond repulsive, it has invoked appropriate backlash, but has the aggressive coverage stopped? No. We were duly informed this morning that Rajput’s father will be leaving for Mumbai from Patna in a few hours. The press is still outside his Patna home, hovering, waiting. And we are watching, which is the root of all problems!

We have to ask why, despite being called out for their insensitive coverage, does the Indian media fail to learn its lesson? What could have enabled a reporter to walk up to a bereaved father and ask for his comments? To share details of how he did what he did so brazenly? Who is watching such coverages and why are these people not changing the channel?

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It is easier to simply call out news channels on social media or to dump the blame all on their shoulders, but the truth is, we as the audience are equally responsible here because we are not questioning toxic journalism enough and we are not bringing TRPs of these channels down. Yes, we all want our news Sabse Tez, Sabse Pehle, but at what cost? Why are we okay with journalists thronging an old man’s house in times of a pandemic and personal tragedy and rewarding their “efforts” by consuming what they peddle?

The way Indian media covers celebrity deaths needs to change. And that will happen only when we as viewers challenge the media’s reporting and demand that they do better.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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