Bollywood Vs News Channels: Hate Fanned Against Film Industry, Says Petition
Hindi film lobbies and producers have alleged in their lawsuit that news channels, such as Republic TV and Times Now, have launched a witch-hunt and smear campaign against Bollywood and specific members of the industry—destroying reputations, livelihood and endangering individual safety.
The petition running into more than 1,000 pages, filed by four industry associations and 34 top producers in the Delhi High Court, seeks a perpetual and mandatory injunction against the alleged defamatory and derogatory remarks. It lists instances claiming that they amounted to a smear campaign and falsehoods. BloombergQuint has reviewed a copy of the petition.
The petition listed the industry's concerns:
Defamation: Hate Generated Against Bollywood
Citing coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the petition alleges that the smear campaign against Bollywood was unprecedented in its reach, scale and vitriol. It cited phrases used by anchors and reporters such as “beloved druggy”; “cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood”; “my dishes are not dirty, it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned”.
- No precaution has been taken to ascertain the truth or use guarded language.
- The channels are making people associated with Bollywood synonymous with drug addiction and other crimes in the public imagination.
- Association members are concerned about seeking legal remedies in their individual capacities as they fear targeting and backlash at the hands of the channels.
Infringement Of Privacy: WhatsApp Chats Made Public
The petitioners have alleged the coverage infringed the privacy of individuals as private facts about their lives are dragged into the public domain. This includes private communications like WhatsApp conversations, illegally accessed and published.
Publicly placing a person in false light has been recognised as included in the tort of invasion of privacy, the petitioners said. The channels, they said, have done so by:
- Intimidating Bollywood personalities and forcing them to make statements. If they don’t, their silence is publicly construed as either tacit support for the crime or of outright guilt.
- During 'news' programmes, pictures of women actors borrowed from films and photoshoots are deliberately shown out of context so as to cast aspersion on their character.
Personal Safety Jeopardised: Reporters Harrassing Actors
The injunction is also necessary since the coverage by these channels has jeopardised the safety of certain individuals, according to the petition. It has generated hatred and anger among members of the public, which may result in violent reactions in public places, it says.
Citing the coverage of the day when actor Rhea Chakraborty was taken for questioning to the Narcotics Control Bureau, it says:
- Reporters of these channels harassed Bollywood personalities at public places such as airports, outside their residence and outside the investigating authorities’ offices.
- These acts continue even during the ongoing pandemic which serves to risk, prejudice and jeopardise the health and safety of the Bollywood personalities and their families.
Injurious Falsehood: Loss Of Livelihood
The producers who have approached the court said many of them have invested large amounts of resources in several ongoing film projects which are now under threat as the reputation and public acceptance of the actors, artists are being destroyed.
This, the lawsuit says, will have an immediate impact on the revenues generated by these films.
- Goodwill of the industry is being systematically destroyed, which directly harms persons employed in the industry in various capacities.
- By subjecting the entire Bollywood industry and specific individuals associated with it to a deliberate, vicious and malicious smear campaign, the channels and their anchors are taking away the audience and fan following of the film industry, destroying its economy.
Impact On Fair Trial: Anchors Turn Investigator, Prosecutor And Judge
A number of people associated with the industry have been questioned in relation to the ongoing cases and there is a chance a few may be named as accused, says the lawsuit.
The trials in these cases are being prejudiced as:
News anchors on their TV channels, and others on online platforms, take on the role of the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge. They conduct and publish parallel private “investigations” and effectively acting as “courts” to condemn persons connected with Bollywood as guilty based on what they claim is “evidence” found by them, thereby trying to make a mockery of the criminal justice system.
The impact of that is already being seen as several well-known personalities from Bollywood have had baseless criminal complaints and frivolous proceedings instituted against them by over-zealous members of the public.
The Bollywood associations say they are not seeking a blanket gag order on the coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case but only restraint on publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks and from conducting a media trial.
They have asked the court to urgently hear the matter, preferably on Oct. 16. The court is yet to list the matter.