My Take

When media steers clear of a car crash

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 5:37am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 5:37am

An expensive car belonging to a well-connected family crashes late in the night. The news is sketchy but triggers some chatter on the internet. A few weeks later the real picture emerges, despite an apparent effort by some people to keep the incident under wraps and very few media reports on it.

The accident on March 18, 2012, in Beijing was like this. Only after internet gossip portals circulated their versions of the event, did it finally emerge that the youngster who died in the Ferrari crash was Ling Gu, son of Ling Jihua, an aide of former president Hu Jintao.

The limits of a state-controlled media was exposed during that case as initial reports did not reveal the identities and were even removed from the web. Being a one-party state with a controlled media, it is easy to imagine how this happens. But in a country which boasts of democracy and an open press, when similar allegations arise, that is puzzling.

Last month an expensive Aston Martin crashed into an Audi 4 and a Hyundai saloon around 1am in Mumbai. Luckily there were no fatalities. What may have been just another incident on Mumbai roads set off a lot of internet chatter after it was revealed the car belonged to Reliance Group, owned by India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

After the crash, the driver was whisked away in one of two security vehicles that had been following the Aston Martin. Reliance said the next day a driver employed by the company was taking the car on a test run when the accident happened, and the 55-year-old man reported to the police, owning up to the accident.

But rumours about the identity of the real driver soon started swirling around the social media. Major newspapers and television networks were accused by some websites of not reporting details of the accident and pulling their reports off the web.

Reports last week said that the Audi and Hyundai owners had now received a new Audi A6 and Skoda respectively from their insurance companies, which are usually notorious for dragging their feet.

No concrete evidence has emerged to doubt the Reliance version, nor have police raised any doubts. But India's free and independent media continues to take flak from some websites over the alleged whodunit case.