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The trial before the trial

We have done it again. We have just found the perfect French fries to munch on with a thick mix of blood-red tomato ketchup and off-white mayonnaise. The entire society has found a dartboard to throw all the darts at — a woman who was found in possession of alcoholic beverages and some other substances.
We must wow at the lady’s worth that we had to create such melodrama, pointing all our fingers at her to prove that she was guilty of possessing intoxicating substances. The mighty law-enforcing machine left no stone unturned to prove that this was a criminal who should be doomed right now.
Done. We did a lot. We had fun. Collectively. And the most unfortunate part was that the media acted like a bunch of activists in selling the private life of this lady whose crime, as the cases against her said, was possessing substances and alcohol.
Now, the questions are: Was her home raided just because of this? In order to unearth illegal substances? Or was there a different catch? Has she committed a crime so grave that we should run uncountable television lives on her?
It wasn’t only her; a few other women were also detained and we dissected their private lives also. We have even termed them as “rater rani.” We have drawn a conclusion that these women have been polluting society by seducing men and at the same time they were also involved in other crimes.
Remember, nothing was proven in the court of law.
Rater rani
The term “rater rani” was coined by the law enforcers. That was quite surprising. Being the upholders of law, they have branded her without waiting for the trial and subsequent judgment by the judges. Now, here’s a force that has taken the role of moral policing. Without concentrating on the crimes they might have committed, we start evaluating them by their personal lives.
The media, again, joined gleefully and quoted the law enforcers as if we have to guillotine these ladies instantly. They drive expensive cars, live in lavish houses, and travel to places. We tried our utmost to establish that there should be a social moratorium on them by branding them as untouchables. Suddenly, our conscience became so strong that we had to vomit all kinds of adjectives towards them.
For God’s sake, this is the 50th year of our national independence, and we hope to see some maturity. This maturity is seen in how we treat women.
The media and the fun-loving society
Why would the media quote an adjective that came out of someone’s mouth about an alleged criminal before the trial? Was that professional? Is the media supposed to take any side? I saw one newspaper publish a list of 21 socially renowned men who, the paper claimed, were privately linked with the woman. I didn’t find a single reaction-quote from any one of those men in that report.
There were many such reports in the media.
Now, what was the media’s objective? There’s no doubt that it wanted to sell this melodrama and create a story when there wasn’t any story. In doing so, it had no other option but to commoditize the lady’s personal life.
We all know that the media is going through a challenging time. Political stories are not in vogue these days because, one, there are no stories in the political arena, and two, the politicians say the same mundane thing every day which the audience doesn’t want to know. Sports stories are not always the sought-after item. The only read-worthy news-mine is entertainment. And however it can, the media has to create the perfect storm in this arena.
One aspect is quite noteworthy. Regular media has become so driven by so-called social media (the fake news factory), that it is in a state of crisis of self-identity. The lack of editorial judgment, proper research-based legwork, and a restive nature have led the regular media into a deep credibility crisis.
The trial before the trial
There is a clear court order that says that we must not brand anyone as “terrorist,” “rapist,” etc, and bring someone in front of the media. The current situation is a clear violation of the law.
I feel like mentioning here that in more mature countries, law enforcers don’t bring someone in front of the media unless that person commits a grave anti-state crime. They deal with most crimes by following the legal process. Now, they do so because the alleged criminal may not be announced as a criminal by the court at the end of the legal process.
This is clearly either a lack of maturity or a human impulse of demonizing others, or our unwillingness to grow up as a nation.
End note
Now, what have we achieved by trying to demonize the lady? We only displayed how we ourselves are violating the law, the sad state of our media, and our hound-like desire to disrespect women.
The melodrama doesn’t tell a nice story that we can save for future historical reference.
First published in Dhaka Tribune on 14 August 2021.

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