Free Press Journal

Arun Jaitley deprecates media trials


Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Coming out against media trials, Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley today said courts come under “tremendous pressure” in high profile cases and asked media to introspect as parallel trials prejudice the environment.

Against the backdrop of the case relating to Sunanda Pushkar’s mysterious death and her husband Shashi Tharoor coming under intense media scrutiny, Jaitley said media should introspect on how to report areas where privacy of individuals is involved.

“The privacy of individuals even in high profile cases is also a part of their lives,” Jaitley said, adding that the relations between a husband and wife or their private conversations should be respected.

“As these areas which have absolutely no bearing to larger public interest only add some spice to the content, the media will have to seriously introspect,” he said while delivering the first Justice J S Verma Memorial lecture on ‘Freedom and Responsibility of Media’ organised by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).

Disapproving the tendency among the media to hold parallel trials, he said as far as certain trial courts are concerned, they are under tremendous pressure in high profile cases where media has almost declared somebody guilty or innocent.

He, however, made it clear that merely because an issue is in the court, there cannot be a gag on the media.

“But if it is an issue relating to individual culpability, the parallel trial concept prejudices the entire environment around which a person is to get justice,” Jaitley said.
Referring to a suggestion that government should try to “discipline” channels those are outside the self-regulatory mechanism, Jaitley said he would prefer if viewers or listeners themselves did so.

“I find it extremely difficult, it may have its own pitfalls if that government enters the business of disciplining media. I would be more comfortable if the viewers or the readers decided to do it,” he said.

Jaitley said that if viewers find a news-organisation way off the mark, rather than the government stepping in to tell what to report and what to report, the viewers with the remote in their hands should decide to move to another channel.

Referring to concerns voiced by security agencies about media coverage of terror-related operations, Jaitley indicated that the matter is under “serious and very advanced consideration” of the government.