The credibility of the Indian media is at its lowest now. There is probably more fake news peddled by mainstream news channels these days than from other sources. Finding journalists who fight for the marginalized and the weak is rare, given that media houses side with those in power, and publishing news materials that makes the government look weak will be met with pushback. However, not all hope is lost yet – as shown by a few fierce and ethical journalists, out of which Tanushree Pandey stands out for her coverage of the recent Hathras gangrape case.
As if the bestial cruelty inflicted on the 19-year old victim wasn’t enough, there was police high-handedness on display when the victim’s body was forcibly cremated by the Uttar Pradesh police. Visuals of the victim’s parents begging the police to allow them to take their daughter to their house one last time fell on deaf ears.
At the center of this was Tanushree Pandey, a reporter with the India Today Group, whose fearless pursuit of justice in this case needs to be singled out and lauded. (She has been a Political and Investigative journalist with India Today since August, 2018.)
If you had followed the case and its reportage, it is impossible to have missed Tanushree’s presence. She has been reporting on this incident since September 29.
ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE - Right behind me is the body of #HathrasCase victim burning. Police barricaded the family inside their home and burnt the body without letting anybody know. When we questioned the police, this is what they did. pic.twitter.com/0VgfQGjjfb
— Tanushree Pandey (@TanushreePande) September 29, 2020
Through videos taken by her news crew, she kept the entire nation aware of what was going on during the dreadful night. Some of her videos are the only proof remaining which reveals that there were murky undertones to this case. Tanushree went after the police, asked them the right questions, and recorded the District Magistrate’s (DM) conversation with the bereaved family.
Dear @TanushreePande you are a warrior. We are grateful you! More power to your voice! 🙏🏽💜
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) October 3, 2020
This is my art for @IndiaToday reporter @TanushreePande Ma’am.
I salute for her inspiring brave journalism in fighting the injustice of #HathrasHorror. We need more like her in this country.
No more rape please. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻#ImplementVermaCommitteeReport#NoMoreRapes pic.twitter.com/IQUNHAOa4A
— Licypriya Kangujam (@LicypriyaK) October 4, 2020
Rant Alert: I don't know #tanushreepandey personally but when I saw the work she did, in the dead of the night, in the circumstances she was in, I realised how she actually risked her life. #Hathras 1/n
— Pooja Prasanna (@PoojaPrasanna4) October 2, 2020
Tanushree has single-handedly challenged the law and order system in the UP, especially its handling of this heinous gangrape case. Her act of defiance and courage against a powerful administration is to be celebrated. But of course, she has been targeted by vicious parties for the same.
A few days ago, a phone conversation, purportedly of Tanushree and the brother of the victim, was floated on a pro-government website. India Today raised concerns about why the victim’s family was under surveillance and demanded the legality behind recording private telephone conversations. In this audio clip, Tanushree asks the victim’s brother to send her a video saying that they were being forced by the police to sign a document claiming that the family was “satisfied with the probe.”
India Today journalist pesters brother of victim for a confession video of father saying ‘there is pressure from administration’.
In another conversation that appears to be between villagers and Sandeep, the brother is advised not to accept Rs 25 lakhs...https://t.co/aUxl4SUYeg
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) October 2, 2020
BJP’s Amit Malviya suggested that the media ban was imposed because of misreporting by media channels. He also added that the autopsy reports doesn’t mention rape and claimed that the victim’s family’s claims were at odds with the official findings.
India Today has denied all the allegations and has asked under what authority the phones were being tapped. “India Today first asks why was the telephone of our reporter, who was covering the Hathras murder, being tapped?” the channel asked. “If it was Sandeep’s phone that was being tapped, then the government needs to answer why the phones of the grieving victim’s family are under surveillance. And under what legal provision of law...”
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) October 2, 2020
In the Global Press Freedom Index, India ranks 142 out of 180 countries in the annual Reporters Without Borders analysis released in April, 2020. Tanushree, who started her career as an intern with CNN-News18 in July 2014, is one among the many journalists who continue to fight for what they believe in. Many senior journalists and public figures have praised her efforts.
(Edited by Athira Nair)