Virat Kohli abused a journalist, but can you blame him?

Published: March 4, 2015
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Who cares about unethical reporting in the original, incriminating article that started the bonfire, causing the cricketer to use those expletives? The world has its story.

As cricket mania progresses, there is no dearth to the mini-dramas it is stirring in its wake. And the media is having a field-day! Besides losing a highly anticipated pit against India, Pakistan’s other debacle was the ‘shaming of Moin Khan’; the chief selector had made the unscrupulous decision of joining his friends for lunch at a casino. God alone knows what went on in there, for all we know they ate and left, but the media had its story.

If Indian cricketers were gleeful about this, it was too soon. On Tuesday, Virat Kohli hurled a barrage of expletives at Jasvnider Sidhu, a senior Hindustan Times reporter, who was watching the practice match at Murdoch Oval. Kohli had mistaken the man for a journalist from another Indian daily who had recently published a not-so-nice article about him and girlfriend Anushka Sharma.

About 10 minutes later, after Kohli had gone into the dressing room, Sidhu was told that Kohli was sorry as it was a case of mistaken identity. The apology was, however, not placatory because, as Sidhu says,

“… Sumit, an old friend of mine, walked toward me and said, ‘Sidhu, he has apologised to you for his behaviour. He mistook you for a reporter from another English daily…’ I would like to reiterate that Kohli did not apologise to me directly.”

Kohli’s behaviour questions the crushing burden of ‘being good’ on people with celebrity status. Kohli’s apology was meaningless because the damage was done. As Sidhu says,

“…such behaviour doesn’t behove of an international player, even if it was not directed at me. I told Sumit, ‘Go and tell him that he is an international player and he should learn how to behave’. How can he abuse and intimidate someone?”

Point to note is that if celebrities are expected to be ‘good’ all the time, why shouldn’t the same go for the media? If there are ethical and moral boundaries etched out for celebrities, why is the media free to publish derogatory material that incites such behaviour from the celebrities in the first place? Do celebrity reporters deliberately attempt to incite and provoke antagonistic behaviour just for the readership and internet hits that such stories muster?

Kohli’s anger and the resulting expletives were because of an article of him and Sharma that he found snide and derisive. If celebrities have a responsibility of upholding their stature, why is the media absolved of this responsibility? After Imran Khan’s marriage to Reham Khan, a barrage of negative articles and prior videos of Reham Khan as the weather reporter at BBC were splashed across the media. Wise celebrities ignore this menace. However, the yet unwise and callow, hot young blood like Kohli react as he did.

When media ethics are studied country by country, nowhere is it considered ethical to defame a person given his public presence or celebrity status. The code of ethics of the SPJ, Society of Professional Journalists, has an entire clause titled, ‘Minimise Harm’. The important items of the clause, pertaining to news coverage of celebrities, include the following:

  • Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
  • Recognise that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
  • Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
  • Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.

More interestingly, in the clause titled ‘Be Accountable and Transparent’, one of the items state,

“[Journalists should] abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”

Even if all other clauses of the code of ethics are brushed aside, this item alone is enough to check unethical media practices. But just like all other major items in the clauses are ignored, so is this.

Over the years, as the methods of information dissipation have exploded across the senses of the readers, the rule of thumb in writing is ‘sensationalism sells’. Giving the spew of information being hurled at an average reader from all types of publishing and printing, the story that catches the eye is the one that sticks. People don’t want to read about the poor young orphan who passed his exams with flying colours but they do want to read about how Kohli insulted a journalist in defence of his girlfriend. Now, there’s a story that will sell the tabloid and garner the most online hits.

Who cares about unethical reporting in the original, incriminating article that started the bonfire, causing the cricketer to use those expletives? The world has its story.

Like it or not, in today’s age of gory-journalism, anyone with star power needs to bid farewell to their privacy and be prepared to read all sorts of stories about themselves. AND they should remember to behave and act in the most decent, amicable manner afterwards. For if they don’t, the press will have another great story on their hands!

aalia.suleman

Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (twitter.com/aaliasuleman)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nandita.

    Kohli has a history of behaving badly. This is not the first time he has lashed out at someone. Irrespective of what the provocation is, this behaviour is despicable. Celebrities will be written about-he should learn to deal with it. If he is enjoying the perks , he should accept the downside of being a celebrity as well. And if he has some grouse, he can approach the concerned journalist and have a chat expressing his displeasure. That would be more effective than using a string of expletives. India has been represented by the likes of Tendulkar, Kumble and Dravid who were gentlemen. They commanded a great deal of respect. It’s so difficult to like or respect Kohli even though he’s a fantastic player.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Gentlemen themselves are a tough find these days….Recommend

  • hp kumar

    why would he care for nobody like us?Recommend

  • anil

    I don’t think media is responsible. In India, no one can question media, exceptions are there. Virat is short-tempered guy and needs to behave properly.Recommend

  • RFD

    emotional people. unable to control
    themselves. Specially at public venues. This emotional instability
    is a national characteristics.
    They even have fisticuffs and brawls in the Lok Sabha ! Politicians
    beating each other up ! In the Indian Parliament ! So there…Recommend

  • Nandita.

    The Indian teams before this were awesome! I watched almost every game india played in the 90s and the early part of this century. Whether the players won games or not – I respected a lot of players.
    Things are different nOw :(
    Read this about Rahul dravid-what a guy! A true gem!
    http://www.youthconnectmag.com/2014/09/27/13-rare-personal-stories-about-rahul-dravid-will-make-your-day-today/Recommend

  • Videlicet

    I like this article as it made me think. Before reading this I was completely against Kohli, knowing well his temperament, tantrums and tendency to use filthy language. After reading I feel that the media is not faultless either.Recommend

  • Videlicet

    Despise it all you want, but the fact remains that the hotblooded and “no nonsense” have to be given constitutional and “non-despicable” means to seek remedy such travesty. Taking up the pen to fight pen is not always possible as not everyone is equally endowed with writing skills, exposure etc. Basically what I’m saying is that to be fair the Kohlis need to be given a simple, quick, “non-despicable” way (unlike suing, writing complaints, or oneselves taking up the pen) to return the venom.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    a poor example of human being. Rude, arrogant and downright bad mouthed.Recommend

  • ab1990

    if media doesnt like to stay in its limits the public will show its limits very soon. There is
    a limit to everything in this worldRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Absolutely. Dravid, Tendulkar and Kumble. Humble giants.Recommend

  • Hassan

    He signed up for playing cricket ! Not ever a celebrity has signed I will be good Always contract ! No matter what absurdities are being written about me and my loved ones by the irresponsible media “I shall always behave!” and what of the Sacred profession of Journalism?? Since when is it above all morals?Recommend

  • Sridhar Kaushik

    Difference between Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid on one side and Kohli on the other is simply this. It is the upbringing.
    Kohli is a rash Punjabi brat who perhaps did not learn any manners growing up. Did I not hear somewhere Punjabi language has the highest number of “curse” words in the world?Recommend