Senior journalist Punya Prasoon Bajpai has expressed regret over the manner in which Ishrat Jahan was termed a terrorist in the media. He has apologised for the sensational reporting of the infamous extra-judicial killing in Ahmedabad.
Though it's a personal apology, it should be seen in wider context. Bajpai is a widely respected journalist and the fact that he wrote a column titled, 'Ishrat hamein maaf kar do', in India's largest circulated Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, is no ordinary thing.
It's rare to apologise, specially in media circles. But the candid piece and the expression of guilt over an encounter that was staged, is not just praiseworthy but also shows mirror to other journalists who accept the official line even though it is a farce.
In this article, he recalls that how the local reporter had called from Ahmedabad and describing the scene of encounter, said that it clearly appeared that the four persons including the college girl were shot dead from point blank range and it was not an encounter.
But as other channels had by then telecast the sesational story of 'fidayeen women terrorists' and Muslim girls taking to militancy, the race for TRP and the jingoistic rhetoric made it difficult for his channel to take another line or question the encounter.
Five years after Ishrat's death, a magisterial inquiry clearly stated that it was a case of cold blooded killings without any exchange of fire. The police theory was absolute farce. Fake encounters are staged by police officers to get promotions, bravery medals and increase one's worth in the eyes of their political masters.
Punya Prasun Bajpai needs to be congratulaed for taking the stand, accepting the responsibility of reckless coverage and sharing his moral guilt, which should instead be a collective guilt for Indian electronic channels.