New revelations raise further questions about role of media in Army man’s death

Yesterday we had reported how an Army Jawan named Roy Mathew, who was working as a sahayak (helper) was found dead and seemed to have committed suicide. He was believed to have been featured in The Quint‘s “sting operation” which purportedly wanted to “expose” the menial jobs they (sahayaks) were made to do.

Initially reports had come out to suggest that after he appeared in the report based on that “sting”, Mathew’s superiors had somehow come to know that he had been speaking to the media. The fear of an inquiry and his probable guilt was believed to have been the reason he took the extreme step.

Now new revelations by his family and statements from the Army suggest that the “sting operation” and his media interactions may have had a larger role to play in his death that earlier believed.

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Army’s press release

In a press release, the army put out its version of events. It stated that Roy Mathew was reported missing on 25th February and was declared absent without leave from that day onward. The release also said that he (Roy Mathew) was asked leading questions about his duties and also that the video was taken without his knowledge. In the most sensational claim, the release also states that as the identity of the Army personnel was hidden, it was not known to the Army officials and there was no question of an inquiry getting ordered against him.

What further questions the role of the media house is this report which claims that Mathew wrote in his diary that the voice, which was attributed to him in the sting operation, was not his and he felt it was better to die than face a court marshal. If this is true, was Mathew hinting at some sort of manipulation and doctoring with the tapes of the so-called sting operation?

Mathew’s brother also alleges that even though Matthew’s identity was blurred in the video, one could still easily identify him by the visuals. He further said that Mathew became severely tensed after his video was uploaded on the website, and as is the case with “sting operations”, he never knew the journalist was secretly shooting him.

Though in the same report, his wife is quoted as saying that Mathew had called her up to say that he had been called for an inquiry by higher officials, which is somewhat contradictory to the army’s press release. Mathew, the only breadwinner in his family, had also revealed to his wife that even TV channels were playing his visuals.

Another report claims that the last text message sent from his mobile was to his attached Colonel in which he said sorry.

In our earlier report we had also mentioned that the so called “sting operation” was not really needed as the various issues faced by the sahayaks were already in the public domain, so much so that even a parliament committee had recommended its abolition. Plus what is clear from the revelations so far is the fact that Mathew was no whistle-blower as he was asked a question and his answers were videotaped without his knowledge, and as claimed by him were also probably doctored. Someone is only considered a whistle-blower when he voluntarily comes forward to speak out against his organisation, and as was amply clear from Mathew’s behaviour his was anything but voluntary.

This exercise by The Quint can also not be called a typical “Sting Operation” since usually a sting features the perpetrator and not the victim. For example, if a politician takes a bribe from a citizen, the sting operation to expose this incident would feature the politician revealing or also partaking in a similar transaction and not the citizen. This particular “Sting operation” would have passed off as ‘ethical’ had one of the Army officials acknowledged the fact that sahayaks were being made to do menial jobs against rules.

On top of it apart from deleting the report and video, The Quint has also deleted the tweets reporting the sting, thereby maybe wanting all traces of the report to be removed, though its not known whether they have come up with a clarification for their behaviour or even an apology for unfairly treating the Jawan.

This case is one of the most unfortunate instances where a media house trapped an army man into speaking his mind and the TV channels broke his trust by telecasting his visuals. As as accurately put here, “The journalists got their scoop and in the end all the army man got was death.”

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