The law is blind; it doesn’t hold any preconception or prejudice against any person. It treats a layperson and a celebrity the same way. However, these days the fourth pillar of democracy has misunderstood, rather intentionally misunderstood, the role of law.
The main function of mass media is to reach out to thousands of people and spread the correct information regarding everything happening around the world. With the advancement in technology, education, marketing techniques, and with the persuasive nature of media professionals, the mass media has now started even to shape the minds of the people.
As seen in the suicide case of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the media, especially the TV news, flouted all the ethics of journalism—be it truth, accuracy, independence, or accountability. The channels made such strong averments regarding the parties involved in that case that any person would be compelled not to think contrary to the same.
However, the truth is that the bodies which finally decided about the case were the investigating authorities and the judiciary. Media trials only paint a certain picture of the case, whereas courts try to solve the case and do justice. Hence, the burden of conducting trials shall be left only to the courts.
Innocent until proven guilty, is a famous legal saying and a principle of the criminal justice system, which means that an accused shall be considered innocent unless the court proves them guilty. The persuasive nature of the journalists or I would rather say, the negligent behavior of the media professionals upsets this very basic principle. What if the accused is not proved guilty after the due process of rendering justice? Then the same media will have to face the consequences and extend apologies (which they rarely do) for spreading the wrong information among the masses.
Another practice followed by the Indian media is the parading of the accused. Parading represents the accused as a criminal in the minds of the public. It is also a grave violation of human rights. The Indian justice system has pronounced a catena of judgments on the right to privacy, thus widening the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, there have been very few instances when the right to privacy of the accused is being discussed.
If we look at the media from the eyes of the law, I feel it is not biased—rather, it has ignored the general principles of law and the very ethics of journalism. Any country’s mass media, entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the public updated and informed, should not forget the fundamentals of democracy.
So let’s raise our voices and fill the cracks in the fourth pillar of democracy as an informed citizen of this country.