After the account of the Delhi gang-rape victim's male friend, who is the only eyewitness to the horror, was telecast by Zee News on January 4, the channel has been flooded with calls and messages from viewers asking why more details about what the boy and his friend suffered during the two-and-a-half hours on the bus were not put out. Here's an edited version of what the Zee group said in reply:
We want to tell the viewers of Zee News and Zee Network (which has a global viewership of 670 million), that immediately after the boy start describing minute-by-minute details of what happened to them after they got on to the bus, we decided not to record it because it was horribly saddening and utterly shameful. In fact, we switched off the cameras so that we would not be tempted to show this account.
Had we shown that, perhaps we would have gained viewership exceeding that of the coverage of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai or the 2002 Parliament attack. Maybe our ratings would have soared. But Zee Network has always believed that upholding the dignity of the country is supreme and above any selfish motive.
We also felt that a blow-by-blow account could arouse the emotions of people to such an extent that their anger might climb to dangerous levels, like what it was at the time of the protests against the Mandal Commission recommendations. We did listen to the boy's account of what happened on the bus, all of us cried, horrified and ashamed at what had happened.
If you feel that we erred by not recording and showing this account, you have a right to say so. Maybe we could still record the account of the boy detailing the terrible bus journey that has shocked and awakened the nation. Through their suffering, they have given us a warning about what is expected of each one of us. We must become the agents of change by first changing ourselves. We will have to become fearless, like the girl and her friend who fought through the entire episode without giving up. It is only when we are without fear and favour that we will be able to demand the change we want, and change the people whom we elect, whether in India or abroad.
We, at Zee Network, are Indians first and will not sensationalise the news for television rating points. However, we are committed to the self-esteem of the country and will continue to play our part without fear or favour to earn television respect points.
In present times, the level of tolerance to face the truth has diminished all around. No one is prepared to face even the slightest criticism. This, despite many being charged with committing crimes and stealing public money and resources. And it are these people who file defamation cases against the media that tries to expose them. However, we at Zee Network are resolved to bring to you the truth.
In this case too, we are being made out to be villains by the governors of the system, the police and the so-called intellectuals. The FIR and the subsequent interrogation on Saturday of the Zee News editor was to warn us not to show the truth that exposes the system, or else we would face police atrocities.
This harassment is painful for us, our families and our children, but we believe these pains are far lesser than that suffered by our elders and those who laid down their lives so that we live as independent and free people. Did they hand over a free India to the right people, or the right system? They would be wondering too.