Has the media's obsession with Shakib Khan gone too far?
Some psychologists suggest that gossip is the "glue that binds social groups together".
While we can justify our unquenchable thirst to absorb and distribute personal, and often clandestine, information about celebrities using psychology, the same cannot be said for media organisations that impede into the personal lives of celebrities to provide coverage.
Recently, there has been a surge in coverage of the actor Shakib Khan and his relationship with film actress and news anchor Shobnom Bubly. Many of the articles published cover and extend on pre-existing rumors about their divorce, and speculations of their current relationship since they uploaded a picture of their two-year old son. However, the coverage went just beyond that. From probing into their personal lives, contacting close family members, to solidifying rumors about Shakib's involvement with other female co-stars, the media stopped at nothing to pump out content.
This harms our community in a multitude of ways, the first one being the most obvious one: not doing justice to the right to privacy of these celebrities. It is already difficult for celebrities, wherever they may be from, to keep their lives under the wraps from the public. It's easy for us to forget that they are just like the rest of us, and have the same inalienable rights to privacy and non-disclosure as us.
In this wild goose-chase of Shakib Khan's history and his past and present involvement with co-stars, the personal lives of female artists like Apu Biswas, Puja Chery, and Shabnom Bubly herself were put in jeopardy.
As much as the audience should try to deter from being obsessed with canards and tell-tales, media organisations also have the unique responsibility of protecting the actors involved in the drama, not to mention the children of Shakib Khan as well. This forced limelight that children face due to the lottery of being born to celebrities is absolutely damaging to their childhood. The moral responsibility of sparing them the flashes of the paparazzi rests solely on the shoulders of these newspapers, TV channels and news portals, something that they do not seem to pay heed to.
There exists a fine line between providing news reports on currently sought-after topics and being invasive. And in our information hungry delusions we often don't realise that the line we have crossed is miles behind us.
I sympathise with those who have the job of providing coverage on celebrities and their lives, but that sympathy is valid only up to the point where they are not stepping on civil liberties or harming the readers in doing so. Just because a market for this content exists does not mean it is justified for publications to go absurd lengths to acquire information that they know the public will devour.
As a general rule, I think it is okay to report on celebrities' personal lives as long as the information being published comes from those celebrities themselves and are consensually disclosed by them only, where they are aware of the exposure that they're subjecting themselves to. When it comes to children, media organisations must be proactive in taking responsibility even if their celebrity parents aren't aware of the dangers that come with having a limelight at infancy.
Following the scandal around Shakib Khan's marriage, our feeds and front doors got saturated with articles that are basically gossip written in formal language. It's all invasive, not only are they stepping on the civil liberties of these celebrities, but invading the lives of the general public as well. After a point these articles get harder and harder to avoid. Algorithms work their magic by pushing juicy articles to the top and suppressing genuine and informative journalism. The more likes and shares articles about Shakib Khan get, the more incentive media houses have to uncover never-seen-before information, and this deprave cycle continues.
Koushin Unber wishes to fast-track winter in Dhaka. Send her video essays at [email protected]