Fayeza Farhana, Amity University, Dubai
Trial by media, or media trial is a circumstance in which the media, though press, print or even social media portrays the accused as the convict even before the court undertakes trial or arrives at a judgement.
This instils amongst the accused the perception of guilt which ultimately sways the trail making it difficult to be a fair one. It creates hysteria and prejudice against the accused.
Though the fourth estate of Indian democracy has been instrumental in serving justice to the victims as in the remarkable cases such as the Bijal Joshi Rape Case1, 2005 and the Jessica lal case, the media in certain circumstances also deviates and hampers with the administration of justice which calls for intervention by the court. The printed “verdict” manipulates the decision of the viewers that are easily driven by the emotions and even of judges.
Improper media coverage often tears apart the reputation of the accused, for instance in the infamous Sheena Bohra murder case, and such media coverage influenced and tarnished the personal life of the accused.
Thus in the wake of such circumstances where the reputation of the accused prior to proving the guilt or investigation is conducted, the ethics of journalism and media is questioned.
In an address to the Bar Council of India Meet in Chennai on July 26, 2015, Honourable Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court of India, citing pressure on the judiciary during the Nirbhaya rape case, said that Media Trials in pending cases should be stopped and judges spared from the tremendous burden caused by it. He urged the media to stop trying the cases in the limelight of media until the case is bought to a conclusion. He said how one of the former judge felt threatened unless a specific penalty was given.