The victimisation of Uma Khurana, a maths teacher in a Delhi government school, has led to viewers and authorities questioning the honesty of television “stings” and prompting other television channels to engage in serious “soul-searching,” observers say.
Many Indian television channels, in the search of sensationalism to seek extra viewers in a crowded and competitative marketplace, are being accused of burying ethical journalism and distorting the truth.
“Indian journalism has never been more competitive and adversarial,” admits Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka, an investigative weekly that regularly broadcasts undercover documentaries.
There are now more than 100 24-hour news channels crowding the airwaves in India, desperate race to grab audiences.
“Our journalist was a criminal,” Sudhir Chowdhury, the editor of Live India, has said.
Police believe Khurana was the victim of a criminal conspiracy hatched by Prakash Singh, the Live India reporter, and someone else who held grudges against the teacher.
The “sting” fell apart when it was revealed that the alleged victim who narrated her ordeal on camera was an aspiring journalist.
Khurana spent 10 days in jail before being let out on bail on Tuesday.
“She was more of a victim than an offender”, judge Alok Agrawal said, while ordering her bail.
But she is not the only victim.
Rameshwar Oraon, a member of the Indian parliament, also found himself on the wrong side of prying cameras.
On Monday, three men were arrested for posing as journalists and attempting to blackmail him.
The three men tried to bribe Oraon – then announced they were conducting a TV news “sting”.
They told him they would quash the report if he paid them.