The Court of Media

I have once written about media’s unfettered freedom in India.

Now, I do not think that unfettered freedom is that good. Media is not comprised of folks who are all super-intelligent, super-educated, super- analytical and simply outstanding human beings. Not at all. On the contrary, most of them are sensationalists and the rest are mere reporters.

While I am not denigrating the importance of a free press in any society, it is critical to rethink the role of the media when they choose to “execute” accused or inflame passions, before the truth is discovered and reported. While it is all good to know what happened in a particular case or scandal, it is also important not to pass any judgements at the “Court of the Media”. The media is not qualified to pass any judgements. Neither can they claim to know everything about every case or every person in every situation. Mostly their information is incomplete. Given that the influence of the media is overblown in our society, it is very important to reassess the role of the media.

The current arguments in the Supreme Court of India about the critical importance of the press bear testimony to the strength of democracy and the independence of the judiciary in India. The very thought of formulating a set of reference guidelines for the media is obviously anathema to the media world, and they are understandably resisting any such thought, notwithstanding any logical arguments in favour of the same. The futility of winning a case against the media is well established, at least in India. The lawyers for powerful media houses and publications will argue till the end of this world how critical it is that the media maintains its independence and neutrality – everyone knows that no media is absolutely independent or neutral.

The question of sullying the reputation of any individual – whether he has public standing or not – is an important consideration before the Court. Why should the media make the conclusion on the integrity of an individual – what right they do have in asserting their position which may not be justified at all – and what recourse the individual has against the concerned media ?

The other important situation is the safety of a victim. The more information is revealed about the situation of the victim, the higher the probability that the victim will be disturbed trying to influence the outcome of the case. The media mostly plays a destructive role in such situations.

While I am not providing any evidence in this post, one is free to make his own judgement by just following the news media. It is evident that media needs to operate within a set of guidelines, and if they cross the boundaries, the Court should have the liberty of passing strictures and exercising their power based on a suitable legislation.

Well, these are my thoughts, and I could easily be challenged, of course. Let us think carefully before hailing the “Court of the Media”, which is not conducted by qualified individuals who can pass judgements on any one and anybody in the society.


Vijay Srinivasan
14th April 2012


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