Trial by Media is a term used to characterise the influence of newspaper and television reporting on the credibility of a person by generating a common impression of guilt independent of any decision in a court of law. It is considered a media hearing.
In the 2008 murder case of Aarushi Talwar, the media declared who was guilty even before the trial began. Mass protests took place and the public was hysterical over news articles suggesting that the cause of her death was her parents.
When a journalist tries to write something that may go against the accused's "fair hearing" or that may impact the impartiality of the judge during the case, he may be liable for contempt of court. The right to a fair trial is an absolute right given in compliance with Articles 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution to every citizen.
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution talks about equality before law. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution states the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Article 20 of the Indian Constitution states that “No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.” Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states about the Protection of life and personal liberty. Article 22 says that “No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.”
Media trials have also pressured lawyers not to take up cases where the public deems certain individuals guilty without actually being proven. This forces the accused to withdraw his right to have an advocate. The assumption of the media encroaches upon the right of the accused to have a fair trial as well as his right to have a good advocate.
In shaping and shifting society 's opinions, the media plays a vital role. However, given that media trials are frequently held in different medias, it is important to look at the professionalism and ethics. There have been several occasions where the media have taken cases into their own hands and have found the accused guilty long though the court has ruled. One of them is the Sushant Singh Rajput Example.
On Twitter, # Sorrybabu was trending. "The background was that when she went to the mortuary to see his dead body, someone from the Karni Sena organisation heard Sushant 's alleged girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty saying," Sorry Babu And it was agreed by people that she apologised for killing him. Some news channels decided a few days back that Sushant was not in depression because he was wishing a friend on WhatsApp good luck and telling him to take care of it.
Media courts, now a reasonably well-known proposition, head straight to the topic of securing the right to a fair trial. Media coverage, like social media now helps us, all from the safety of our own home, to hear, judge and criticise those accused.
When the person or individuals concerned are famous, there are always difficulties, since they are more likely to make the paper or even the twitter feed. Politicians, retired magistrate Marcus Einfield, and even controversial teen party chief Corey Worthington were all exposed to media trials.
The question is a collision between, on the one hand, the right to a fair hearing and, on the other, freedom of speech and public interest including 'open justice'. Although the public has the right to know whether officials are engaging in less than professional actions, there is a point that a fair prosecution could be compromised by undue media attention. It also proves difficult to achieve this equilibrium. And not all cases deal with individuals who, before their trial, were famous, or even heard of.
Yet another way that press attention alters the way judges and juries operate in the justice system is by supplying them with relevant information about the prosecution or the clients behind the case. For example, the specifics of a controversy are frequently shared to social media pages almost immediately in today's deeply connected social network. This is very unfair to the people engaged in the case and violates their right to a fair trial. A fair trial is very difficult after news is already being shared and the verdict is being announced before time. The use of social media by jurors has the ability to manipulate the results of proceedings and eventually contribute to mistrials. Jurors have also been charged with contempt over excessive use on social media in several cases. The topic of social media use by jurors is not going anywhere, and calls are being made to fix the problem.
In our culture, the media has an immense impact. In the course of providing reports about a crime, police officers involved in felony investigations can become intertwined with the media. A trial's media attention, especially television cameras in the courtroom, will influence the conduct of witnesses and jurors. A study showed that as a case was going on, most jurors knew media reports about the lawsuit, but none from before they were called to the jury service. Perhaps interestingly, jurors were seven times more likely to remember media attention of high-profile trials than jurors who worked in regular cases.
The effect of the media on any newsworthy event cannot be undermined. Although recent developments in vast coverage of trivial celebrity news have changed the sense of the word newsworthy such as shopping sprees or dating trends, certain articles will still be considered a priority. Unfortunately, all of these kinds of tales, including natural disasters, corruption, and homicide, are negative. Usually, murder reports are short blurbs on television, where a newscaster will quickly state that someone has been murdered usually someone without fame. The media coverage involving a celebrity convicted of murder is an exception to this form of coverage. The 1994-95 OJ Simpson trial is the most famous example of a case demonstrating the impact that the media can have on a murder trial.
The one way in which the OJ Simpson trial was most affected by the media was by making the trial a race issue. Questions such as "Can a black man receive a fair trail?" started to be asked because of which t he attention on the news moved more and further from covering real evidence. Before verifying the true truth, the newspapers began to print reports, thereby misleading the viewing audience. In spite of the real court process, the persons writing and reading the articles did not know what they were talking about. They also had to have big news that would catch the attention of the audience and raise the ratings. The tradition of the media taking all testimony, disregarding the integrity of the source and publishing it as truth was an insult to the first amendment, according to Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a professor at Harvard Law School.
Some infamous cases would have led the court to declare the accused innocent. Two of them are the Jessica Lal murder case, 2010, and the Bijal Joshi rape case, 2005. Media prosecutions have resulted in extensive coverage of the defendant's guilt which contributed to a certain impression of him. In high-profile situations, it generated hysteria among spectators, making it virtually difficult for the prosecution to end in a rational verdict.
Written By: Ms. Priyal Doshi, Law Student at Jindal Global Law School, Legal Intern at S. Bhambri & Associates (Advocates), Delhi.