Feb 26, 2022
Media Trials: What are the Dos and Don’ts for Reporters?
The Bombay High Court has asked media organizations to carefully follow guidelines on media trials. The Court had previously discussed these guidelines in the case about the popular Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput.
In this case, the Court outlined guidelines for the press/media to restrict them from printing, displaying and initiating news items, discussions, debates, interviews, etc. of a certain nature. The Court said that the press/media should:
- Avoid or regulate certain reports, discussions, debates, interviews, etc. about any on-going investigation into a crime
- Present only information for reading or/viewing in public interest
- Not present reports, discussions, debates, interviews, etc. which can harm the interests of a witness or accused under investigation, just to overtake competitors in reporting.
Harming a person’s reputation
The press/media should not depict a person who committed suicide as having a weak character, or intrude their privacy. Additionally, they should not assassinate a person’s character and damage their reputation.
Influencing an ongoing investigation
Importantly, press/media should not influence or harm an ongoing inquiry/investigation by:
- Referring to the character of the accused/victim
- Showing interviews with the victim, the witnesses or their family members
- Analyzing versions of witnesses whose evidence could be vital during trial
- Publishing confessions allegedly made by the accused to a police officer, and trying to make the public believe that this is evidence accepted by the Court
- Printing the accused’s photographs resulting in their identification
- Criticizing the investigative agency based on incomplete information without proper research
- Making statements on the merits of the case, including pre-judging someone’s guilt or innocence
- Recreating/reconstructing a crime scene and showing how the accused might have committed the crime
- Predicting the future course of action, including steps to complete the investigation
- Leaking sensitive and confidential information from materials collected by the investigating agency
Following the Programme Code and journalistic regulations
Any print media or television media channel reporting news has to follow the Programme Code, journalistic standards and the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Regulations. If a media house or newspaper violates these, it can face consequences not only from the concerned regulatory authority, but also criminal contempt of court.