Guiding Light: Investigative journalism

-- Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati

I have also been very appreciative of investigative journalism. It really got a fillip in India in the mid-eighties when a mainstream newspaper did a series of expose on certain government deals and some political shenanigans. The journalist of the paper became a hero in the public’s eyes. It was a job well done.

Ever since then the media has played a good role. I am all for that – investigate, expose the shady, murky underbelly of the society, bring to light what the police may have overlooked deliberately or otherwise. Maybe their hands were tied under some pressure or the other. But the media with the freedom it enjoys in India could surface a lot of issues.

The media could investigate crimes related to corporate deals, political deals and expose the connection to the drug syndicate or mafia, whichever is involved. Similarly, investigate the riots that happened and find out the instigators of the riots. We cannot let them getaway. Let us do a thorough cleaning job in society.

At the same time we need to bring some balance and objectivity into the media circus we see these days. One cannot overlook the rule of law that a person is innocent until proven guilty. We need to give anyone and everyone a chance to a legal defence. It cannot be a witch hunt. Investigative journalism cannot stoop to become trial by media.

Just because someone is called for questioning or has been accused of is a suspect in a given case, that does not make the person guilty. The guilt is still to be established in a court of law. So investigative journalism should not cross the line and organise a trial in the public gaze as the accuser, judge and jury.

Let the media do its job of bringing to light all the issues concerning a given case or an issue. Let the legal system decide the guilt. Yes, one will be tempted to say that our legal system requires a thorough overhaul. Please investigate that too. But do not become the accuser and the judge.

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