While the news about the Elphinstone foot overbridge stampede has been sorrowful and showcased how shabby the infrastructure is, the news about the stampede molestation claim being fake has proven to be even more eye-opening for the world.
While a public apology has been issued by the journalist, Vedika Chaubey of ‘The Hindu’, who initially reported the incident with reference to the viral video clip, an example has to be made out of this incident, because a fabricated report like this could have led to wrongful arrest and detention of an innocent citizen, and also wasted the police force’s time and efforts.It is sad that our nation didn’t think twice before blindly consuming a piece of “news” that was published on the basis of an unclear, 8 second long video that went viral. What was once an internet speculation became a claim and then subsequently turned into news articles in no time? And our news portals, with no shame or ethical responsibility, happily published unverified and unresearched content as “reports”.
It is even sadder to consider that we as an audience accepted it rather than questioning its credibility, which makes us wonder how conditioned we have become to acts of sexual assaults in the middle of riots, communal violence, natural disasters or other civil disorder issues.
Yes, we see news about brutality too often to believe otherwise or question it. But that doesn’t mean we play right into the hands of whoever concocted this ghastly story. Imagine if you were trying to help someone out of a situation, and thanks to the creativity of an uninspired journalist, or a bored netizen who decided that you helping someone looked suspicious, you will face lifelong persecution of being a molester. Even if you were never identified or arrested for it, would you ever again stop to help someone in need, plainly out of the fear that your goodwill could be mistaken again?
We need to stop selling assumptions as facts, and we need to be even more careful of what we read. Not everything that is published under big names has to be true; there’s a reason why they are called news ‘stories’, after all. They aren’t non-profit organizations; they are trying to sell something to you. It is you who has to be aware enough to understand what is true and what isn’t. As soon as the police declared that the man was just trying to help the woman who was stuck in the railings, thanks to a longer version of the viral clip and statements from eye-witnesses, social media took to arms to accuse feminists and feminazis as the ones who must have pushed this allegation forward. Why can’t it be a greedy reporter or journalist who just wanted some steam to his or her story? An unethical or hate-mongering person who likes to create conflicts? It could be any of these, so again, stop blaming it on a particular someone. Many national news agencies took up the news and wrote about it, how about you question their work ethics first before making it into another internet conflict?
Let’s get our priorities straight, and be careful of what you believe. Not all that is sold as news has to be true. And thanks to this fear of incrimination, the next time you want a fellow bystander to help you out of a difficult situation, don’t wonder why they would rather walk away and save their name rather than do what humans are supposed to do: help each other.