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Trial by Media

  • 27 Jul 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Kangaroo Courts, CJI, Article 21 and 19, Fundamental Rights

For Mains: Trial by Media and its implications

Why in News?

Recently, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) said that the Media is Running agenda-driven debates and Kangaroo Courts, which is not healthy for democracy.

What is a Kangaroo Court?

  • The phrase” Kangaroo Court” is used against a judicial system where the judgement against the accused is usually predetermined.
  • It is a self-appointed or mock court set up without much premeditation for the purpose of delivering judgement arrived at in advance, usually in which the fate of a disloyal person is decided.
    • This expression may have originated in Australia but it was first recorded in the US during the California Gold Rush of 1849.
  • The Kangaroo Courts were common during the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, famous as the “Moscow Trails” of the Soviet Great Purge.

What is Trial by Media?

  • About:
    • Trial by media is a phrase popular in the late 20th century and early 21st century to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person's reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before, or after, a verdict in a court of law.
    • In recent times there have been numerous instances in which the media has conducted the trial of an accused and has passed the verdict even before the court passes its judgement.
  • Constitutionality:
    • Though the word media trial is not directly defined anywhere. But indirectly, this power is being given to the media under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
      • Article 19 of the Constitution of India provides freedom of speech to each and every person.

What are the Implications of Trial by Media?

  • Affects Judicial Functioning:
    • Concerted campaigns against judges, particularly on social media, and media trials affect judicial functioning.
    • Ill-informed, biased and agenda-driven debates in the media on issues pending in courts are affecting justice delivery.
  • Unable to Distinguish Fake and Real:
    • New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad and the real and the fake.
    • Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases.
  • Wrongful Portrayal:
    • Media has been successful in portraying events that have to be kept a secret.
    • Media trials have caused wrongful portrayal of alleged accused and have acted as a helping hand in destroying their careers merely by the fact that they were accused, even though they have not yet been portrayed guilty by the court of law.
  • Not Good for Democracy:
    • Media has breached its responsibility, taking democracy two steps backwards, affecting people and harming the system.
    • Print media still has a certain degree of accountability whereas electronic media has zero accountability as to what it shows vanishes in thin air.
  • Instigate Hatred and Violence:
    • Paid news and fake news can manipulate public perception and can instigate hatred, violence, and disharmony among the various communities within society.
    • The absence of objective journalism leads to the false presentation of truth in a society which affects the perception and opinions of people.
  • Right to privacy:
    • They invade their privacy which causes a breach of the Right to Privacy guaranteed under Article 21.

How is the Media Regulated in India?

  • The body that regulates and governs the media and entertainment sector in India is enshrined in the Cable Networks Act, 1995 and the Prasar Bharti Act, 1990. These are regulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Prasar Bharti.
  • There are four bodies in India for media regulation.
    • Press Council of India: Its mandate is to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
    • News Broadcasting Standards Authority: It is an Industry Body created by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).
    • Broadcasting Content Complaints Council: This is to deal with complaints against entertainment and general segment television programmes.
    • News Broadcasters Federation: It was created by those who left the NBA, called the News Broadcasters Federation.

Way Forward

  • Media should only engage in acts of journalism and not act as a special agency for the court.
  • Though the media acts as a watchdog and brings us a platform where the people can know about the things happening in a society, it is important to know that this has only led to the whole of the world being biased against one community or a single person.
  • Media should understand that its role is to raise issues which the public is facing. Media can be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. Media should not deliver judgment because in India we have a judiciary for this purpose.
  • Media should maintain its code of laws and ethics, social responsibility and credibility by not interfering in the matters of court so early. Instead, they should do the research, keep a check on high profile cases, find the evidence and keep it to them until and unless they find the truth suppressing.

Source: TH

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