TV voyeurism touches new low

BY A correspondent| IN Media Practice | 14/04/2013
Four Telugu channels spewed moral outrage about a group of students indulging in revelry.
A CORRESPONDENT says this invasion of privacy by media amounts to an attack on individual freedom.
Is moral policing justified by ‘culture shock’? This question arose after would-be lawyers were subjected to a repeated onslaught on Telugu channels. After five years of hostel life and rigorous legal education at National Academy of Legal Studies and Research University (NALSAR), students were enjoying a farewell party thrown by their juniors at a pub in Jubilee Hills when a mediaperson tried to capture their image. A furious verbal exchange followed. Another mediaperson was recording outside the club when the students left for university late at night. It is alleged that students demanded and took the cell phone used to tape their private party, but they found no such content in it. They suspect the recording instrument had been switched.
But media projected a different version. Their news bulletin claimed that a mediaperson was trying to record the activities at the pub called Rain, which was allegedly serving customers against the rules, and also alleged that the pub was running with the support of a senior police officer. This facilitated the incident which media described in Telugu as ‘Mandu Bhamala (drunken girls) Hangama’, ‘Media Pai Chindulu’ (Fury against media) and ‘Titla Puranam’ (foul language).
In fact, the video clippings did not show anything within the club;  what they presented outside the club in the street focused on the dress and language of the girls. Four Telugu channels telecast the same footage, obviously distributed by one media outlet, with the comments students found seriously objectionable. Posting them on Youtube with headlines like ‘Hyderabad hot girls held for nude dances in Rain pub’, ‘Hyderabad hot girls caught nude and drunk’ in English (13.4.2013) and ‘Hungama of drunken women, obscene dances and half-nude dresses’ in Telugu was gross defamation, according to aggrieved students. The Telugu media made the visual story spicy by adding clippings unrelated to the incident on the night of April 11.
Some channels aired views of women wing leaders of Telugu Desam party against pub culture and drinking of alcohol by girls. One leader threatened to go on fast against ‘midnight running of pubs’. These CVR News channel bulletins posted in this social network video media were visible on April 13, while bulletins of TV9, Sakshi, and ABN were not available on Youtube after April 12.
The exposure and its repetition as a 15-minute clip dozens of times over 24 hours on four channels have assumed very serious proportions. Though beeped and blocked, four-letter words were identifiable.
In a strong complaint against a section of electronic media, posted to Justice J S Verma, Chairperson, News and Broadcasting Standards Authority, Justice Markandey Katju, Chairperson Press Council of India, Chief Justice N V Ramana, Acting Chief Justice of AP High Court and Chancellor NALSAR, Manish Tewari, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and Ms Aruna D K, Minister for Information & Public Relations Government of Andhra Pradesh, the students demanded revocation of licences of the channels for ‘violating people’s privacy by taking video footage, morphing the images, and airing it against completely fabricated and sensationalistic stories’. They alleged that local TV channels including ABN Andhra Jyothi, TV9, Sakshi TV, Studio N, NTV Telugu News Channel, Idlytv and News 24 and several websites such as, citymirchi,com,,,, and, published the video footage in a derogatory manner. Besides explaining this specific event, the memorandum also contained criticism of media for indulging in voyeuristic stories like this and also supplied the links for them. The number of voyeuristic stories that pass moral judgment on the lifestyle choices of individuals is alarming, they claimed. The petitioners sought strong action against media including compensation and permanent deletion of content from their archives.
While students were mulling over the idea of filing complaints for stalking, harassing and the obscene projections besides suing for defamation, the matter was already taken to the State Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile, the police commissioner ordered a probe into the incidents. Objecting to being described as ‘drunk’ and ‘half-naked’, the students alleged that the media targeted and videographed them without permission, which amounted to slander.
The footage went viral for a day, It is difficult to fight this sensational coverage with the argument of freedom and adult autonomy. The  time of the incident is disputed: while students say it was around 11 pm, the channels claimed it was beyond that time.
NALSAR took serious note of incidents and convened an emergency meeting of its executive council on April 14. The university   issued a statement that ‘the Executive Council taking note of recent amendments in the Criminal Law on the recommendations of the Hon’ble Shri Justice J S Verma Commission noted the recent voyeuristic practices by a section of the electronic media and resolved to take up the matter with appropriate authorities. Accepting the suggestion of Hon’ble Shri Justice P V Reddi, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India; Former Chairman, Law Commission of India and Member, General Council, NALSAR, the Executive Council constituted a Committee to suggest short-term and long-term measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents.
The faculty and students feel it as a matter of grave concern for an institution of high repute and discipline. While some doubted the outcome of legal battle with sensationalising media, others emphasised the need for a law university to fight in principle against the new crime of voyeurism and stalking committed by media. Women leaders of TDP however contend that the combination of daring dress, and display of bad temper at midnight, laced with alcohol, should be checked in the interest of the healthy growth of society.
A leader of Malamahanadu, a political organisation of a section of Scheduled Castes, appeared in a TV debate and strongly condemned the high class families residing in Jubilee Hills permitting their children to get into alcohol and drugs at such ‘illegal centres’ and alleged that it was wrongly influencing the middle and lower classes of families.
The point is that freedom does not mean irresponsibility.
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