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Trial By Media: How much it is justified. How it impacts the adjudication of cases?

Every now and then what ever the event had occured or about to occur in the world or in India one thing which have become a norm is the media trial of the cases, specially the new form of media that have emerged which chases the officials and accused till their homes and offices making up the scenario look like a circus. However apart from this what is of concern is unnecessary defamation and obstruction of justice. Media trials hampers the process of law to take its course. It makes a person become guilty forever in the minds of people even if the evidences prove the otherwise, that is even if the person or an institution is found not guilty for the charges against them in the end, the public still believes for the whole of its life that they were guilty. Let's understand what this is and what the judiciary and law thinks about the media trials?

Image source: Google

What is a Trial by media?

Media Trial is when various newspapers, magazines, television channels, and social media websites interpret facts of a particular case. Media then presents these cases via its medium to the general public, thereby influencing their opinion. Some of the famous trials by the media in India were seen in the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case and the  Jessica Lal murder case.

Two sides of Media Trials

Trial by media has also some positives but more of negatives, it has the potential to bring to light cases where an injustice has happened. It thereby provides an opportunity to provide justice to victims on either side. E.g. the case of Lindy Chamberlin from New Zealand who remained falsely convicted for 8 years on the charge of killing her 2-months old baby in 1982. On the other hand, they violate the presumption of innocence and the right to dignity and the privacy of suspects, the accused, victims, witnesses, and persons closely related to them.

The Supreme Court has also commented on these media trials. Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said, ‘’The media, particularly the electronic and social media, are running “kangaroo courts.”

"Trial by media hampers judicial independence of courts and interferes in the trial process.” – Judge in the Aarushi Talwar case. These statements bring into light ill-informed, biased, and agenda-driven debates in the media on 

issues pending in courts. This brings to the fore the issue of Trial by Media and the associated ethical considerations. 

What are Media Ethics?

Media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy and holds a very important place in any civilization. But when media loses up its ethics and duties occasionally for self interest or to say the TRP's than its a concern.

In the context of the media, “Ethics” may be described as self-restraint, to preserve and promote the trust of the people and to maintain their own credibility and not betray the faith and confidence of the people.

To uphold this idea of media ethics, all people involved in media have to adhere to some principles of Media Ethics.

Concerns regarding Media Trials

Media trial impedes the right to fair trial and justice of a person and jeopardises the rule of law. It hinder and obstructs the administration of natural justice.

There have been instances of insensitive language used in news debates which defames the accused unnecessarily. It can hold the individuals guilty despite reasonable doubt. It thus impairs with the value and respect of the individuals. It does not follow the due process of law and can reduce the public trust in institutions of governance like judiciary.

What can be possible solutions

An internal mechanism for adherence to guidelines strict ethical guidelines can be created. E.g., Internal ombudsman and media council of peers. Media ethics needs to be rethought and reinvented for the media of today. 

Generating awareness regarding responsibilities of persons acting as sources of digital media and at the same time, sensitization of consumers on how to effectively use digital media. (Also, read on how to stay aware of FAKE News)

Advent of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain could revolutionize the currently used processes. The Media should objectively broadcast the news which implies that the media should avoid adjudicating upon any case but only adhere to the publication of the factual part of the case.

stay tuned for more.



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