Media trials : A blot to democracy

Arnab KhalidBy Syed Suhail Yaqoob

Democracy revolves around judiciary. It is probably its most important pillar as it is a guarantee of effective and justifiable application of constitution. Judiciary is there to protect the rights of the common people encroached on by the executive. There has been many instances where by the judiciary had to intervene to protect the rights. It was seen through effective and timely use of PIL’s in case of tribal people and environmental concerns. Judiciary has been on the front to protect the downtrodden from the encroachment of the rich and influential people.In India judiciary has been very active through out to check the activities of the parliament and executive, however it has been innovative as well. It has provided enough space for the parliament and executive to work for the development and progress of India.

Patrakaar Dalaal


However, there is another front for the judiciary. It is the resurgent media, a corporate media and a paid media that has been at the forefront of shaping public opinion. This shaping takes place even before the decisions are taken by the highest courts of a country. There have been many instances where by the decisions whether a person is guilty or not have taken place inside media chambers not in courts. Even though the constitution provides free space to the press in the form of freedom of speech, these statues are deliberately misused by media and other corporate media for their own selfish means and ends.

The recent controversy that revolves around the JNU protests was provided hyped media attention. The media channels were moved in to prove the charges that were labelled against the said students. The sedition charges that were slapped on the students were proved inside media chambers. The TV channels  citing an anonymous Intelligence Bureau input, claimed that Umar is a sympathiser of the Jaish-e-Muhammad. There were also reports that he had visited Pakistan. while the Centre has denied that the Intelligence Bureau had issued any such report. His family said Umar doesn’t even have a passport.

Scrutiny of Khalid’s mobile number showed that it was used frequently between February 6 and February 9 and the calls were made and received outside Delhi

Trial by media is a phrase popular in the late 20th century and early 21st century to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before, or after, a verdict in a court of law. The shaping of public opinion is currently being manipulated in order to derive some concessions. In India, this is a new emerging trend. Tune to any television channel, there are features of yellow journalism.

Though Indian media has played an important role in its struggle against the colonialism in Indian subcontinent, it has failed to contain itself and has breached all rules and regulations. Yellow journalism is their favourite now. These media channels have come with different stories that were not up to any standard. In fact there seems to be a competition among the media channels for maintaining a certain level of viewership. For this decency and standard is thrown to winds. It is impossible to believe that Indian media has come to this low despite having a glorious past. It has created some of the best and renowned journalist of the world. The debate in those days was played without tilting to any ideology and it was mostly fair and just. Today, things are not working in a good shape and media has encroached on the powers of government, judiciary and liberty of an individual.

It is astonishing to see how much Indian media is able to control the government’s policies. The government had to reverse its policies on the domestic and foreign policies. Government of today is regulated by media. These tend to limit options of the government to adopt significant attitudes towards foreign affairs. It is mostly seen in case of Pakistan. Media has forced government to take a tough attitude against Pakistan and its collaborating with it for the fear of backlash. And it has happened in all cases almost. What media presents as favourable is readily accepted as good and what it perceives bad is bad for India.

One of the disturbing trends is labelling a person with some illegal activity. It has damaging consequences on the liberty of individual and his freedom to prove himself. His liberty provided under the constitution is readily and right away taken back. On media channels there is hardly any lawyer or he to prove the charge as false. And he is painted what media likes him to paint.All information about the said person or persons is made available and it destroys his psychological set up. His fundamental right is taken away and there arises a breach of the constitution. Nowhere on media debates is he or she represented by the lawyer or himself. This is shocking.

There has been a diffusion of information and technology in India. More incomes to rural areas have allowed them to demand information and technological services. Media wants to tap into this market through sensational disclosers and sensational reporting. However most of the rural areas are still illiterate in law and administration of the country. It is this combination that makes media to take advantage of the innocence of people. No doubt the resurgent have taken toll on the judicial system of India to provide justice to the innocent persons. In fact many persons were later released even after blamed for illegal activities. However, the damage is already done. The media manufactured perception doesn’t easily be removed from the minds of the common people.

It seems that there is a high time that media has to be regulated and made responsible. It has to be seen that the anchors don’t reach a conclusion in the media chambers without going through a judicial process. Media has protected rights of many people and has revealed many corruption scandals of the country. Yet it has to be seen that these don’t fringe on the fundamental rights of the person. No doubt debate and discussion is needed in a democracy, however it has to be within limits. It has to be responsible and provide each and every one space that is guaranteed by the Indian constitution.


The author is pursuing PhD at Aligarh Muslim University in dept. of Economics and can be reached  at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *