Tehelka.com and Headlines Today, in a sting operation, 'exposed' Muthalik. For the last couple of days, HT has been running episodes of 'Rent A Riot' and trying to create a sensation, in vain. Not one other media channel has lapped up the story, here is not created enough hype over the story and definitely no action is being taken against Muthalik, who can apparently stir up a riot for a price (in the video, he was seen demanding 60 lakh rupees to start riots).
What went wrong? Why are HT licking their wounds while no one else will talk about it? No doubt the Muthalik story could have been made to be a big deal. It was breaking news when the Mangalore incident happened (they harassed girls in the name of moral policing) and then the Valentine's day moral policing again.
In a bid to keep the story to themselves and come across looking fabulous, HT ran a story with the video a couple of days ago. They had discussions on what should be done with Muthalik and asked if he should not be arrested? That was their first mistake. While what they have done is a neat way to trap the bugger, they should have shared clips of the video with other media channels before they did their first run. They could have come out with the story first, the others would still need time to whip up a presentation. They would have made some money out of it (possibly, I am not sure how it works). To have not shared and to expect that the rest of the world will pick up from their accounts, was foolishness. Why would any other news channel want to run a news report that HT has played and replayed enough times to make it stale for them by the next day?
Their second mistake was to refuse responsibility. This is something I feel strongly about. Why do they expect that recording an expose on video and playing it on TV is enough to warrant action? One of their reporters on TV, Shoma, repeatedly said it was their job to simply bring the reality out in the open but the responsibility of civic institutions like the police department to take action. Even as an ex-DIG argued that the police will be unable to take action without a complaint. While I think there is something wrong if the police know of a wrong-doing but cannot take action unless there is a complainant, I cannot see why HT or Tehelka do not want to take complete responsibility for their operation? Why are they refusing to file an FIR or even a PIL?
On Day 2 of HT's 'Rent A Riot', they spoke to the public and tried to generate a voice that said to to the police department, "Arrest Muthalik!" A cheap tactic to escape having to register a complaint themselves, I think. They have been bold enough to blow his cover. Why do they want to hide now? Agreed there is a lot of red tape to cut through and a shitload of garbage to face but if they started something, they must finish it. Why do they keep asking on TV whether Muthalik must be arrested? We all know he should be locked up to never see the light of day again but repeating the question is not going to make the creaky wheels of the government departments moving. Especially when their viewership is limited and they have no support from the rest of the media world. The public will wait for more noise before they join the bandwagon. The common masses are a lethargic group, aren't we? Isn't that why we sit around and watch when shit happens all around us?
If they ran the expose in public interest, as a conscientious organization, then they must take complete responsibility and see through to the end of the matter. It appears that Tehelka performed their sting operation, as it is what they do, and HT chipped in with a promise publicity but now do not have the guts to brave politics and get their hands and feet dirty. Everybody wants to tape wrong-doings on video (and God knows there is enough of it in our country) and run it on their news channel, in order to get an edge over the others. The question is, how far are they willing to really clean up the mess?
Through all this noise, Muthalik has been able to sleep peacefully. All that came of the video (so far) was that he had to give an interview on TV (Headlines Today) where he refuted their claims and called the journalists shameless. Nothing has changed in his life, as a result of the news. As Director General of Police, Mr. Ajai Singh, said there are a number of cases pending against him and this will be looked into as part of those. In short, the grand expose by Tehelka and HT just relegated to the dark corners of an already dust-gathering pandora's box of Mr. Muthalik.