Crisis in Journalism: Media Trials

20 May 2021

Curtain Hug

Influence Of Media Trials:

On Accused.
Because of publicizing the case, the media projects the suspect guilty, even before the court’s judgment. A lot of prejudice arises against the suspect. Even when the accused gains the verdict of innocence, it is nearly impossible for that person to rebuild their image in society. It also influences the justice administration, causing contempt against the court for going at odds with the media.

On the Witness.
If the witness reveals their identity, the police, the suspects, or their associates might pressure the witness for particular reasons. There is also a possibility of the witness withdrawing from the case to get out of the chaos. Lastly, there is a question about the validity of evidence, considering a hostile witness due to publicity of witness, and whether there should be an amendment to prevent the changing of the statement.

On the Judge.
The judges have to make sure that they unconsciously or subconsciously don’t fall for the influence of these media trials during the case. Along with that, judges might also come under the eye of criticism from the media. If the foundation of these points is misinformed, it might reduce faith in the public about the judiciary.

Media Trial Vs. Freedom Of Speech.
The Constitution of India, Article 19(a), states that Freedom of Speech is about forming public opinion on political, social, and economic matters. Freedom of speech is an essential part of democracy, entitled to every person in the democratic process.

Relating to the above point, Justice Venkataramiah of the Supreme Court in Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India (1984) stated that freedom of the 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 on a large scale, particularly in the developing world, where television or modern communication devices are not still available for all sections of society.
The belief is that while media is a way to provide information and form opinions on various issues, too much intervention can cause panic among viewers and create problems in a fair trial.

Media Trial Vs. Fair Trial
A trial not being impacted by the extrinsic pressures is called The Right to Fair Trial. This right is one of the basic foundations of the Indian Justice System and is secure under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, under Articles 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution.

India sticks to the concept of Innocent until Proven Guilty. Hence, the media plays a role in broadcasting factual data to the people but should not pass judgment on a particular case. Along with that, there should not be excess publicity of the victim, accused, and witness or reveal any confidential data that may affect court proceedings. Most importantly, there should not be a parallel case running that pressures the judge and judiciary to carry out a verdict.

The media has a right to discuss and comment on cases but not to provide judgment on them. There are many cases where the media gives out the verdict to a case before the court. Media trials hinder the process of giving a fair trial and interferes in delivering justice. It has more negative effects than positive effects, and freedom of speech can’t be allowed to prejudice the trials.