On Tuesday, thousands of people including A-list Bollywood celebs called out the media’s lack of ethical journalism in the Sushant Singh Rajput death probe. The open letter signed by actors Sonam Kapoor, Shibani Dandekar, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, and Zoya Akhtar amongst others blasted the media for its vilification of Rhea Chakraborty.
Published on a blog called Feminist Voices, the letter begins with the words, “Dear News Media of India. We, are worried about you. Are you feeling ok?”
Bollywood Open letter to Media
It further reads: “Because, as we watch your witch-hunt of Rhea Chakraborty, we cannot understand why you have abandoned every professional ethic of journalism, every tenet of human decency and dignity and chosen instead to physically assault a young woman with your camera crews, endlessly violate her privacy and work overtime on false accusations and moralistic innuendo for a drama of ‘Rhea ko phasao’.
It proceeds to state how the media has woven a hateful narrative around Rhea Chakraborty while stripping her of her basic rights. “You have been obsessed with creating only one narrative: a young woman who makes her own decisions, who lives with her boyfriend without marriage and who speaks up for herself instead of acting like a damsel in distress, has a morally dubious character, and is to be considered a criminal at any cost, without investigation, without the process of law and respect for her rights.”
Questioning the kind treatment meted out to Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt during their infamous trials, the letter asks if stripping Rhea’s freedom is considered a victory.
“We know you can be different — because we have seen you be kind and respectful to the Salman Khans and Sanjay Dutt’s of this world, urging us to think of their families, fans, and careers. But, when it comes to a young woman who has not even been proven to commit any crime, you have assassinated her character, egged an online mob on demonizing her and her family, fuelled wrongful demands, and called her to arrest your victory. Victory over what? Young women daring to make their own lives in a society that grudges them their freedoms?”
The letter further reiterated how the media’s promotion of damaging stereotypes like “vishkanyas” and “dayans” is further endangering women who faced years of struggle and persecution.
“There is so much in this world that prevents young women from even dreaming little dreams, let alone achieving them. Their laughs are too loud for everyone, their freedom too free for families and communities — and apparently for television news channels — their sadness not real, their questions, their concerns, their ambitions, their clothing choices, all scrutinized, trivialized, dismissed, persecuted. It is easy to victimize a young woman because there are so many people who already disbelieve, slut-shame, and abuse women, for their smallest freedoms. It is certainly cheaper than doing actual stories about a host of issues from GDP to health, currently confronting us.”
It continued, “Your pulp fictions have threatened both, the vulnerabilities of women and the fragility of mental health. And you have sent out a message to every woman in this country– and to their potential attackers — that if she does not stay within the most restrictive limits she is fair game for abuse, molestation, and violence.”
“Spare us your tired hypocrisies of Beti Bachao and respecting women. It is not being someone’s beti that makes a woman worthy of respect. It is being an equal citizen of the country that accords us the rights all citizens deserve: due process in law, protection from violence, a fair listening ear, respect for choice and privacy,” the open letter read.
“We write to ask you, the news media, to stop this unfair witch hunt of Rhea Chakraborty and to stop fuelling moral polarities of good women to be deified and bad women to be crucified which endangers all women.”
Appealing the media to do the responsible thing, the letter urged them to “Hunt news, not women.”
The letter which has been signed by approximately 2500 people has been endorsed by 60 organizations. Several Bollywood celebrities including Rahul Bose, Simi Garewal, Gauri Shinde, Reema Kagti, Krystelle Dsouza, Amruta Subhash have voiced their support to the cause. Meanwhile, Rhea Chakraborty who is currently in Byculla jail is set to move the Bombay High Court after her bail plea got rejected by a sessions court.
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