The portrayal by the regional electronic media of the case of Hemavathi, allegedly confined to her Malleswaram home for years by the family, has been condemned by doctors attending on her as well as women’s rights activists.

A doctor at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), who did not wish to be named, said: “On Monday, the woman was wheeled into the hospital at 1 p.m. and by 1.30 p.m. the entire media crews descended on us asking for our sound bites. How could we comment without seeing the patient?”

He said the family was also shocked by the feeding frenzy and suspected vested interests were trying to project the situation is a particular way.

Unhealthy competition

He said the media should have acted more responsibly while speculating on Ms. Hemavathi’s health and her family’s role in it. “The media, especially electronic media, should not just aim at increasing their viewership,” he said, pointing out that intense competition between channels led to such sensationalism.

Women’s rights activists said Ms. Hemavathi’s portrayal by the channels violated her human rights and dignity.

Robbed of dignity

“She was shown lying on the floor with a piece of cloth partly covering her. Television crews were trying to interrogate her even as she lay in that condition,” said a livid Mallige of Samanata Mahila Vedike. “This only adds to the suffering and trauma she has already gone through.” She added that television channels were consistently and blatantly insensitive to women’s issues.

K.S. Vimala of Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane said while there should be a discussion on the issue and the plight of the woman, the media should be careful how they portray her in the process.

“Ranging from a failed public healthcare system to ill-informed and negligent parents, an entire system is to be blamed for her condition,” she said. All these aspects, she said, should be at the centre of the media debate rather than sensationalism.

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