by Vidyadhar Date — April 24, 2021

A prominent , senior journalist in Delhi is seriously injured by a car allegedly driven by a senior defence organisation official, she dies later and the media does not even report this. What does this tell us of the state of our media ?

She was injured on March 25 and succumbed to her injuries on April 22. . It was only after her death that the world heard of her injury and even then there was no full disclosure of facts.

Print, the prominent media organisation for which she worked, in announcing her death, merely reported that she earlier met with a road accident near her house. It paid her tributes but made no mention how the accident had occurred , who caused it.

Perhaps there was even an attempt by some sections to suppress the cause of death because of the involvement of the defence official who has been arrested. All Indications according to the police report are that he was drunk and tried to escape. He was arrested after a police chase.

The crash took place on March 25 and yet till the death the media did not even report the incident though Renu was a senior journalist, editor of the website Print (Hindi), and veteran journalist Shekhar Gupta is the chief editor and chairman of Print.

I first read about the death on Mr Gupta’s facebook page on April 22 and was surprised to find that it merely mentioned that she had died in an accident. It made absolutely no mention of the cause of the incident, who else was involved, which was the other vehicle. No mention of the DRDO official. Since I have been writing on transport and road crashes for several years, I pointed this out and said readers should know how the so called accident occurred. It was only subsequently in a late night report the details of the incident were reported. First of all it should be understood that the right term is crash and not accident. One does not fault Print for this because in India not many people even in the field of transport are not sensitive on the issue. In sensitive sections in the West the word rightly used is crash. Accident implies that no in is responsible.

What is more surprising is that some of the most prominent television and print journalists, who knew her well, were not even aware of the cause of the accident, that a high official was involved. This is clear from their initial reactions. The news they got had after all merely said she had died in an accident. But as senior journalists they should have been aware of the horrible facts since the incident had occurred weeks ago.

I did not know Renu but obviously she was talented. Had worked for long for BBC. After reading about the death I did a bit of search and found her participating in a discussion held some time ago by Rajya Sabha TV about the declining coverage of book reviews in the media. She came off as intelligent and sensitive while one journalist seemed to be batting for the managements .

The crash also took the toll of the man who pulled the rickshaw in which Renu was travelling. This should have been front page news the next day. And yet there was silence .. What does this tell us ? The cycle rickshaw puller succumbed to injuries on April 1.

The DRDO’s officer’s name is mentioned as Gaurav Batra, described as assistant director in one report and deputy director in another.

It is clear from the Print’s website that she was a talented journalist. ThePrint’s Editor in Chief Shekhar Gupta said it is a terrible, heart-breaking loss for all of us at ThePrint.

“She built a formidable Hindi section in no time. Versatile, gifted, and always can-do”, Gupta said.

Renu Agal had joined BBC London as a producer in 1996. She used to host a special programme ‘Nai peedhi’, which was focussed on youth. In 2011, she left BBC to join Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd as a commissioning editor. She later joined Juggernaut Books in 2015 before joining ThePrint Hindi team as a senior editor in October 2018.

She led the Hindi team of the organisation and used to host video shows too, such as Ilanomics and PageTurner.

Geeta Pandey, Women and Social Affairs Editor, BBC Online, was a long time close friend and colleague.

“Renu was a brilliant journalist. She had so much rigour, so many questions and most importantly, she never took sides,’’ she said.

The media’s silence on the issue is baffling. The first thing a student of journalism is taught is to ask questions about Where, when, how an incident took place.

Did all these senior and noted journalists not have even the basic curiosity to find out how one of their colleagues is injured, who was responsible, how she and her family are coping with the trauma ?

The media had also desperately tried to suppress the news of a drunken BJP leader in Bihar allegedly killing nine school children and injuring several others with his driving in 2018. I had written on this then. . What is astonishing is that there is no follow up in the media in all these months though several children were victims.

 Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book seeking priority for public transport, walking and cycling