Vadra vs. Media: An Ethical Debate
The Robert Vadra controversy with the media has yet again sparked off the age long debate – the right of the media to information vs. the right for civic liberty for the individual. It has brought into question the ethical concerns surrounding media behavior and also the status that the media needs to have. Robert Vadra, was accused to have misbehaved with a reporter by pushing away his mic, calling him an “idiot” and then storming away. The reporter had asked him questions regarding his controversial land deals with DLF.
His behavior towards the media has been severely criticized and deemed as highly inappropriate. Several media persons as well as the members of BJP and AAP have come out and spoke firmly against such misbehavior. Sambit Patra, a BJP spokesperson stated, “It was the sheer frustration of Robert Vadra that became manifested as an inappropriate behaviour on a journalist. Vadra was the one who had called India a Banana Republic and we Indians as mango people but it is time that we make him realize that India is no more a Banana Republic which was ruled by the first family of the Congress.”
His behavior is being regarded as highly shameful as it is the job of the media to deliver news and the reporter was just doing his job; but the question of civic liberty arises that being a “private person” why was Vadra hounded in his private space with no prior permission?
This is the point put forward by Congress Party, which has come to the defense of Robert Vadra, claiming that if a person is harassed repeatedly such incidents are inevitable and have advised the media to not pursue such unpleasantness. Vadra was at a 5-Star hotel’s gym when he was bombarded with his controversial deals with DLF. The media was there to cover the launch and while questioning Vadra they shifted their focus instead to Vadra’s DLF scandal. Vadra caught off-guard, flew into a rage when he was inappropriately hounded by the media and reacted to it aggressively.
The questions regarding ethical standards of media keep coming up since the line between the public and private matters is a thin one. For instance, in this incident, being involved in such political controversies, the issue had become a public one. Denying answering the question or using this opportunity as a platform to express his opinion on the matter was his prerogative. So while it is the job of the media to be vigilant and grab every opportunity for covering the news; it is the right of the individuals to protect themselves and their private space by using their agency to refuse disclosure.
What was unfortunate in this incident was the use of aggression and violence that Vadra displayed at the reporter. While the Congress has been supporting Vadra throughout, perhaps also since he is related to the Gandhi family, being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi; there is one person from the party who has boldly stated his opinion which isn’t aligned with what the rest of the party says. Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit, in an open statement, said, “I haven’t seen it and I’m not responding as a Congress spokesperson because it is a matter between an individual and a cameraperson. All I would say is, for any person, there is a public etiquette and decorum we all maintain, and you can have overbearing media people at times, I can appreciate that, but I think for anybody we must maintain basic civility…And I think if we have some grouse we should just let it go, this kind of public display is unfortunate. I don’t know what the circumstances were and I have not seen the tape, but all of us, especially people who are known in public, must maintain a level of decorum.”
The public stand on the matter is also mixed. Some believe that, media trials have become commonplace and are also unfair many times. However, Rajni Sharma, a teacher by profession, commenting on Vadra’s behavior, she said “It was not done in the right taste. The media was just doing their work. He should have responded to them politely. Maybe he was drunk and he didn’t know what he was saying or doing.”
Rekha Diwedi, another high school teacher also feels Vadra’s behavior wasn’t proper, she says, “If he was not interested in giving an answer he could have very well said no comments. But this act shows his arrogance.”
In most people’s opinion the prominent complaint has been that Vadra’s response to the whole situation was undesirable and easily avoidable. Yet, the issue has become far more complicated since the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out that the state government entered a bilateral deal with Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality but lost Rs. 41.5 crore during the deal. As part of the deal that was struck, the developer of the complex was supposed to keep the profit of only Rs. 2.15 crore but instead the Vadra company sold off the property to DLF for Rs. 58 crore earning a profit of Rs. 43.66 crore.
The public rage stems from this fact that despite the clout that he is in, Vadra isn’t being humble.
Pooja Solanki, a government employee in the education department, strongly opposed Vadra’s actions saying, “He should not forget that he isn’t the son-in-law of
the whole country. Media has a right to question you. Now how you answer shows how well you’ve been raised.”
However, Kuldeep Pundhir, a media person himself, feels that, “As people from the media, even though we need to get news wherever possible, sometimes being slightly sensitive of another person’s situation is an ethical stand to have. However, while we are on the job it isn’t right for people to disrespect us.”
Such allegations and controversies have made the situation even more complicated. Whatever may be the case, the truth needs to come out and it eventually will. The media has to do their job sincerely and conscientiously however they also need to be given their due respect.