• Monday, April 13, 2015 - 05:30
Outlook magazine has taught an elementary lesson on how not to report and by extension, a brief lesson in media literacy. In its April 20 issue, Outlook published a story titled “No Jottings, The Babu Has Left The Building ”. This is how the story began: “How an actress who has faced the biggest of television cameras of all sizes and shapes could get so rattled by a pinhole CCTV eye, we will never know. Nor why she raised such a shindig in a BJP-ruled state, exactly when the party natio¬nal executive was deliberating more important issues. But the Goa incident shows how quickly Smriti Irani has squandered away the goodwill in her 10 months as helmswoman of a most crucial ministry: human resources development.” And here’s how not to report: First, the appetizer: “How an actress who has faced the biggest of television cameras of all sizes and shapes could get so rattled by a pinhole CCTV eye, we will never know.” This is like saying that a person who has seen tigers on high definition television must not be afraid when confronted with a real tiger. After all, one is used to seeing it attack, right? The camera in the Goa store was aimed at the changing room. Ya sure, everybody changes clothes, we do it every day right? So we mustn’t make a fuss when someone wants to watch us without our knowledge, right? “Nor why she raised such a shindig in a BJP-ruled state, exactly when the party natio¬nal executive was deliberating more important issues.” Well, obviously, the universe was conspiring (remember Om Shanti Om and The Alchemist?) to make the accused, the camera and Irani meet right when the BJP had its national executive meeting.  “But the Goa incident shows how quickly Smriti Irani has squandered away the goodwill in her 10 months as helmswoman of a most crucial ministry: human resources development.” You can be forgiven for thinking that reporting a crime or grievance has something to do with how a minister performs at his or her job.  Now, the main course: First, the opening paragraph simply has no connection to the rest of the report, which is an analysis of Irani’s performance at the HRD ministry. It is either a lead which was carelessly written, or it was written with deliberate misogynist.  Second, Irani lodged a complaint with the police on the grievance of suspected voyeurism, which is a crime. To link a suspected crime with a “shindig”, is to trivialize her identity as an individual and as a woman who has the right to privacy. Third, voyeurism is generally directed more at women than at men. Irani’s complaint, read within this context and the report’s juxtaposition with the BJP’s national executive, seeks to suggest that a woman’s rights and grievances are not political issues. Crimes against women occur because a women are usually targeted for being women.  Fourth, the report again links the Irani's reporting of a possible crime to her performance as a minister. This is the second time Irani is being attacked for her appointment as HRD minister on grounds that have nothing to do with her capabilities or performance. When Irani was first appointed, academician Madhu Kishwar and many others attacked her for not even being a graduate and claimed it was ironical that such a person was in charge of education.  Read: Why Smriti Irani's education does not matter It is the right of every person, citizen or otherwise to file a complaint with the Indian police. Linking that to Irani's performance as minister, or to the activities of her party are unfair and unconnected comparisons that smack of misogyny.