Author: Parkash Chaudhary
Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy and it plays a vital role in moulding the perception of society about most of the events happening in the world. The majority of the people get knowledge about the happening of any event through the forms of mass media. All the sources of media such as television, newspapers etc. are the medium to show the information regarding any event happening around the globe. Media plays a very important role when it comes to investigation. The information published through the various sources of media forms the very basis of the investigation. Thus, this article will deal with the impact of media on investigation and media trials.
MASS MEDIA AND MEDIA TRIALS
Mass media is the most efficient source of information and news. Mass media includes all the sources through which society gets all the information. Newspapers, television, the internet, magazines etc. are some of the examples of mass media. These sources are efficient because they help in the investigation of events or cases. It not only examines the negative consequences of any incident but also throw light on the positive consequences of any incident.
But, when we talk about media trials it means when the media takes a case into its own hands irrespective of the verdict of the court. It describes the impact of mass media (television or newspaper coverage) on the reputation of the accused person. In other words, it is a worldwide perception of the guilt of the person accused. The media creates an opinion and it becomes a widespread perception of guilt. Media trial can become very dirty as they declare the accused as a convict before any judgment of the court. Media trials impact severely on moulding the opinion of the society and it also can impact the judiciary. Thus, declaring the accused as a convict irrespective of the verdict of the court is considered as ‘media trial’. Some of the infamous cases which are the prey of media trials are the Jessica Lal murder Case (2010), Aarushi Talwar Murder Case (2008), Sushant Singh Rajput Suicide Case (2020). Media trial happens when cases are of high publicity and due to this, it becomes nearly impossible that the trial of the case remains fair. Some of the reasons that media trial happens includes when the case involve some celebrity or when the case is so gruesome that the media consider it essential to sensationalise the case.
ROLE OF MASS MEDIA IN INVESTIGATION
- Mass media has a very crucial impact on the investigation of any case. The information circulated through the sources of mass media forms the very basis of the investigation of the case. Following are some points to explain the role of mass media in the investigation:
- Mass media has become an important medium of investigation as it releases CCTV footage which eventually helps the police in their investigation. These footages and other similar things help the justice delivery system.
- One of the most important pillars of mass media is ‘Investigative Journalism’ which throws light on the allegations, proofs, and consequences of the case. It is considered very crucial because it promotes good practices.
- Mass media has the power to create an enormous impact by calling attention to the most controversial and high publicity cases. It gave people a better understanding to form their own opinion about a particular case.
- Mass media has also helped in advancing the investigation by providing the very base of investigation i.e. the preliminary information. It has proved its role in the investigation by establishing important links in many controversial cases of India which facilitate any investigation smoothly.
- Mass media provides a source of information on various issues such as politics, celebrities, business etc. It has played a pivotal role by providing the information gathered from various sources which help in the investigation of any particular case.
- Another important role played by mass media is the interviews and statements published through various platforms of mass media which helps in the strengthening of any case thereby helps in the investigation.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH vs. MEDIA TRIAL
Freedom of speech which is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India is a fundamental right given to the citizens of India. This article gives us the liberty to share our opinion on any matter i.e. economic, political or social. Freedom of speech is considered as the mother of all the liberties given to us by the Indian Constitution. Freedom of speech comes with the responsibilities and reputation of others. Freedom of the press is not a separate right but it is covered under Article 19(1) (a) only.
Justice Venkataramiah of the Supreme Court in Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India (1984)[i] has stated:
“Freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. The press has now presumed the role of the public educator making formal and non-formal education feasible in a large scale particularly in the developing world, where television or modern communication devices are not still available for all sections of society.” The media has conducted trials on various cases which are most controversial. Freedom of speech comes with some reasonable restrictions but media trials consider no restriction. Due to this, the concept of a fair trial becomes nearly impossible. It had an enormous impact on the viewers as they form an opinion about the accused that he/she is guilty even before the verdict of the court of law. Media trial is responsible for the false portrayal of the image of the accused. Moreover, this has been a reason that their career has been destroyed because media portrayed them as the convict, the guilty irrespective of the court of law. The most recent example of this is the Sushant Singh Rajput Suicide Case (2020) in which media has crossed its limit to prove that the accused (Rhea Chakraborty) is guilty of the murder of Sushant Singh Rajput. In this particular case, media has played a very crucial role in portraying that the deceased was ‘murdered’ and Rhea Chakraborty is the ‘murderer’ even though the viscera reports confirmed it being a suicide. It has raised questions against media trials. The case has also been filed in the Supreme Court of India against the media trial.
The people of our country has the right to know the information about the various events and issues happening around the country and that is the duty of the media which is justifiable by law. But, when it crosses its limit by creating certain opinion into the minds of the viewers it becomes unjustifiable. According to the above article, media trials have a more negative impact on society as compared to their positive ones. Mass media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy it has to be regulated by the government because it can lead to huge damages on the judgment by the court of law and the reputation of the person involved in the case.
[i] AIR 1986 SC 515