India Insight

Moral brigade, media trials and law

May 3, 2010

In what is being seen as a significant judgement, India’s apex court recently dismissed all charges against south Indian actress Khushboo for her alleged remarks on pre-marital sex in a 2005 magazine interview.

KhushbooThe Supreme Court said her comments were her personal view and that she was entitled to express them.

Many in the country believe the verdict heralds a welcome but a difficult and slow change. Nevertheless, it reinforces our claim to democracy, secularism and above all freedom of speech and expression, of course with its riders.

But an offshoot of the same verdict also highlights prevalence of two active groups in the country which are substantially contributing to its brand and image.

One is media which drives to act as a facilitator of democracy, welcoming the evolution of society and bringing about changes. Other is the moral brigade which claims to be the preservers of rigid cultures and ethos and refuses to embrace any change.

In its judgement copy of the Khushboo verdict while quashing all 22 criminal cases and denouncing litigators’ plea, the apex court criticises media as well.

The judgement text says the three-judge bench in the Khushboo case was misquoted by electronic and print media on live-in relationships, and that there was no such observation made.

This part of the judgement brings a remarkable similarity between media and moral brigade. Which is that both consist of zealots who respectively claim representation of people and followers and thereby the popular view.

Many in society have strong misgivings about both groups. They believe that media often sensationalises issues and has, in the past, breached law with its inappropriate handling in coverage of national issues – sometimes jeopardising nation’s security and other times intervening in judicial matters.

Moral brigade, media trials and law

So much that the term “trial by media” is used to describe cases as high profile as Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo.

Is it that the media has become too intrusive in judicial affairs?

But so is the cogent disapproval of the moral police spouting wild rhetoric and oratory.

Or is it that just as a few preachers in all religions hijack sizeable sections of their communities, so do certain sections of media?

Comments
3 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

In the mad rush for viewership and TRPs, media is forced to forget the cardinal truths. Get noticed is the catch word of present day life and for media its the basis of survival. Market is for early birds and waiting for cross checking becomes suicidal for media.When only ‘hijackers’ get noticed….how media alone can stay away?

Posted by Kodinhi123 | Report as abusive
 

We first need to evaluate the result of so called high profile cases or even pithy ones lying in the court without media intervention.

Jessica Lal case reminds me of the Times of India’s famous headline – No One Killed Jessica – after all the accused were acquitted. Had media not intervened in a case like this, poor Jessica’s family would have kept groping. So why are we harping on intervention by media? Shouldn’t we be thankful to this fourth pillar of democracy which not only bails out the people, when it is the job of the local MLAS and MPS who these people have voted in.

It’s an irony that when laxity and inefficiency of administration is exposed in newspapers and on TV channels, we applaud. But, when the same media goes out of the way to represent people’s miseries and woes in the judicial system, they are blamed.

I agree that there are blacksheeps in each profession and that there are sever moral lapses committed by many famous TV anchors including one Mrs Dutt. But ones like her know how to play to the gallery and their clever dogmas cannot be generalised.

Posted by AnkitMahapatra | Report as abusive
 

Media today need to get over its obsession with the reporting and highlighting of the negative and the controversial. It need to focus more on development and constructive issues. I have discussed on this need for an image make-over in my blog http://chapter18.wordpress.com/2010/05/1 4/the-mosquito-syndrome/

Thanks
Narayanan

Posted by nara | Report as abusive
 

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