The word Sting itself has a negative connotation. A wound that doesn’t really hurt, yet doesn’t leave one feeling happy. Its source is hard to find but harder is to find its cure! To sum up, I loathe stings of any kind especially the cheap vulgar tactics used by our suddenly overactive television media, to stand out in the overcrowded television industry. With power comes responsibility, but who gives a damn to that anyway! Anything to keep the cash registers ringing. It is known that a certain Hindi news channel’s average ratings of 4-6% rose to a staggering 10% during the Uma Khurana case. This woman was brutally attacked, even suspended on a meager accusation (trial for which didn’t cross anyone’s mind) .Later it was revealed that this so called Sting Operation to make the public aware of the happenings around them, was conducted not for investigative reasons but for personal revenge. But who cared by the end of it? The channel was busy receiving sms’s , emails and callers online with their revenues steadily rising with every call. So who gives back this woman’s lost honour, who apologizes for the harassment?

India is the world’s largest democracy. The Press completes the system. Our country needs news coverage all around the clock, it needs interactions, responsible reporting. But, formulae like the Sting Operations are not reporting but investigative journalism, which happens to cross the line of decency and privacy time and again. This further blurs the line between law and ethics. Numerous cases of tampered videos like in the case of the MMS circulated during the Arushi Murder case have cropped up. People argue that it keeps people on their toes, makes officials answerable. So you might say that the operation against Uma Khurana was unethical but the one showing 14 MP’s taking bribe is justified. At what cost? Who decides against whom it is justifiable, against whom it isn’t? How much Sting Operation is good? Are we ready to let the media play the role of the judiciary on the pretence that the judiciary is corrupt too? After all it is trial by media. And hasn’t the media shown its ugly side too, in the recent Arushi murder case?

Our judicial system doesn’t acknowledge Sting Operation results as evidence. What gives the media the right to identify and victimize a person based on just suspicion? Is it right to hold someone responsible for a crime he would not have committed if you hadn’t encouraged him? Doesn’t our legal system follow the policy of “Innocent until proven guilty”, where even the most hard-core criminals have the right to protect their identity until a judgment has been passed? But the people accused by the media (taking on the role of the police for now, who knows what else later), are subjected to instant humiliation. Isn’t this a human rights violation?

Society needs to realize and not see Sting Operations as the last resort. Many are of the opinion that it is the only way the ‘aam admi’ gets to know what’s going on and stop it. There are other ways and means to change the society. Instruments like the PIL’s and RTI’s still exist and can successfully give the grievances of the public a voice without accusing a man and holding him ‘Guilty until proven Innocent’.

Yet, to label everything black is incorrect.Completely banning Sting Operations is not the ideal solution. Corrective actions, guidelines are the need of the hour. With the industry growing so should the laws governing it. The three way link between the media, the government and us needs to be strengthened, but not at the cost of each other. We play a very important role as it is us who make the TRP’s. So, next time you switch on your TV sets (bored of everything else) and get fixed on those news channels sensationalizing everything under the sun, spare a thought. You are making the cash registers ring. You maybe are fuelling the creation of a new age Frankenstein. Because last time it was Ms. Khurana, next time it could be you!

Shruti Choudhury


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