Why I am furious about the ZeeTV interview of the #DelhiGangRape victim’s friend

Yesterday, Zee TV interviewed the victim of the assault, in which his friend was gang raped. The interview itself contained nothing new, except putting a face to the tragedy. The information was already public apart from the personal expression from the victim’s mouth itself.

Many imagine that the wrong was disclosing the identity of the victim. This wasn’t done, actually. Nor were the details of the rape talked about. What the victim of the assault (friend of the victim of the gang rape and assault) described was everything else. He spoke of how they got on the bus, how the altercation happened, how he got hit, described his injuries, skipped the rape, described how they were dumped on the road, abandoned without help by the citizens and police who arrived late spent time arguing about jurisdiction and the hospital not attending promptly or even giving him something to cover himself. All this is public news, but as the story is now devoid of new masala, the emotion arousing face of a man who actually saw it first hand is a fresh breath of TRPs, to put it very cynically.

It is not about revealing victim identities per se. Many times victims have given media interviews with faces blurred, their family members have spoken to media.

I dislike this practice of milking a story by repeating information in various ways, through what is best described as putting human suffering on exhibition for voyeurs. However, that too is a media reality. My problem is the whole interview itself.

The chargesheet had been filed when the interview happened. The fast track case has its first hearing today. Police have asked for death sentence for the rapists based on the death of the victim. This is what most people want, however India does not have the death sentence for rape yet. It is her death being attributed to the assault that has enabled the police to ask for it within the parameters of the law of the land. The system indeed will face a huge backlash if the rapists don’t get a death sentence.

At the same time, it will be a perversion of our legal system itself to judge a crime by inventing a law that did not exist when it was committed. That is not how the legal system is supposed to work. It sets up a dangerous precedent for the possibility of hyping up a crime enough to rig the punishment criminals get. The police are trying to frame charges as per existing laws, and the charge of murder hinges on the death of the gang rape victim being due to the assault and gang rape.

On the day before the trial begins, you have Zee TV putting what they call the “only witness” on air, talking about everything except the brutality of the rape (thankfully). Instead, he describes the plight of the victim on the road, not helped by citizens. The time wasted by police, the lack of any help offered by them, the callousness of the hospital (the biggest problem the victim fought was infection). He speaks of how the victim should have been taken to a better hospital like Apollo or Fortis instead of one like Safdarjung where facilities may not be adequate (remember, police admit casualties daily – who pays?). In other words, he detailed the role of everyone except the rapists in her death in a most convincing and emotion evoking manner. It clearly blames a lot of people for what the victim (and he) went through – except the rapists – who were outside the scope of the interview.

The trial begins today, where the court is asked to hang rapists for murder. What exactly is Zee TV trying to do here? Of course police are furious! Where are they supposed to ask the much demanded death penalty if channels run media courts condemning their role the day before trial begins? Particularly when the information is already known as well as endless opportunity to air any time later. What does it mean to arouse anger about everyone except the rapists the day before they are on trial for murder?

Sure, many issues need to be addressed. But for me, when I read/see anything in media, I definitely use a filter of “why this, why now”.