Sting operations have become the favoured tool of journalists in India, thanks to the rapid rise to fame of Tehelka through a string of sting operations. Sting operations raise a serious moral question. What is right and what is wrong? What do we expect from people in positions of influence – do they have to be infallible?
Take the recent case of Jothikumaran of Indian Hockey Federation. Money is offered deliberately to this person and the reporters, the audience along with them, are expecting him to refuse it. This stretches the thread of morality to the extreme. I am not trying to pass judgement on whether Jothikumaran has committed such commissions in the past or not. But in this specific case, not many people in his position would have come out clean, when someone insists on them taking a bribe for committing a ‘not-so-harmful’ crime.
The purpose of investigative journalism should be to investigate and expose ‘crimes’ that have ‘occurred’ or are in the process of ‘occurring’. It is not to tease and induce a person to commit an error and then trash him for that.
Before commissioning a sting operation, the editor has to ask himself a few questions:
- Does the reporter have any personal vendetta or other external motivation for doing this operation (the Delhi school teacher case)?
- Is this operation going to expose a crime that has already happened (like the Gujarat pogrom) or is it going to induce a crime and then expose it (like the IHF case)?
- Is it merely going to test the moral fabric of a person? How many normal honest people will be able to resist the temptation of risk-free money thrown at them or a good-looking girl knocking at their doors voluntarily?
I dont think it is the duty of media or anybody to test how a person will react to a situation, by creating a situation. We have every right to demand the highest order of integrity from everybody, when a real ‘situation’ arises. But that does not give us the right to infringe on the lives of unsuspecting ‘victims’ and make them ‘guilty’.
Every person has his or her fallibilities. By trying to exploit these fallibilities, let not the journalists take the lazy route to reform the society. Trying to expose people in the process of committing real crimes is a tough task. But that is what we expect from our journalists.