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INVESTIGATIVE ROLE OF MEDIA: RESPONSIBILITY TO THE SOCIETY Kathakali Nandi Student (Session: 2008-11) Department of Mass Communication and Videography St. Xavier’s College Kolkata, India Website: http://www.sxccal.edu Email- firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: The paper seeks to understand media’s role as an agent of shaping and influencing public opinion. The paper also takes a look at investigative journalism and its crucial role in helping the masses to form their opinion about various issues which are in news. It also tries to understand the role of media interference with the help of two case studies. Using the two case studies, the paper looks at the way media helps to mould popular opinion of the masses and thus, bring about a justified closure to controversial issues. The paper tries to reveal the importance of investigative journalism and how far it is requisite in a democracy like India. Keywords: Investigative journalism, media intervention, public opinion, mass protests, denial of justice
Introduction Media has always been considered the watchdog of the society. It is very important to have a free and fair media in every form of government. In a vast and diverse democracy like India, it is of utmost importance that the media functions without any form of bias and prejudice as the media also takes the role of the Opposition. Media is almost like the backbone of the Indian democracy. The roots of media can be traced back to the times of the Nationalist Movement in India. Ever since those times, media has been a crucial role in guaranteeing the citizens their rights and liberties. Besides playing these important roles, media has evolved as a much needed agent of change in the society. Over the years, media has helped to form public opinion and has been quite successful in this role. The role of media in a democracy comes into focus especially during the ongoing process of elections in India. The different types of media (television, radio, etc.) have helped the masses to be more educated and aware of their surroundings. Investigative
better known as Manu Sharma. had asked for a drink from Lal which she refused as the bar was already closed. This scandal and the type of reporting done by the media made the country take notice of a new form of journalism that was previously employed by magazines and journals. this particular journalistic style is not just restricted to the above mentioned fields. politics. The main accused was Siddharth Vashisht. the son of Venod Sharma. The Tehelka scam raised a lot of uncomfortable questions about the Indian government. Manu Sharma. in her restaurant Tamarind Court. etc) to help bring these critical issues into the public sphere thus helping people to get their rights. sting operations are widely carried out to report against corrupt ministers and the political setup of the nation. talk shows. certain cases have got pushed into the limelight which in turn attracts the attention of the masses. Nowadays. This role of the media is discussed with the help of two case studies. nevertheless. Lal kept refusing Sharma even 2 .journalism is a type of journalism that is much into practice. Case Study 1. This has often led to aggrieved parties getting much needed justice. these days. investigative journalism is mostly related with sting operations. Lal was working as celebrity barmaid in Ramani’s restaurant. Rajiv Gandhi. crime. Although this type of journalism raises several questions regarding journalistic ethics and rules. in an inebriated state. Even today. However. etc. it has been seen that due to the interference of the media. was the first instance when investigative journalism came into focus. The incident took place on April 29. This scandal later on led Gandhi’s defeat in the next elections. What Happened The murder of Delhi model Jessica Lal by Manu Sharma is perhaps one of the most prominent cases of media interference resulting in justice. this type of journalism has radically helped to shape public opinion. corruption. discussions. investigative journalism has been a controversial issue ever since it was practiced. Although the main areas of investigative journalism mainly revolve around the areas of scandals. Media employs several tactics (debates. was accused. In India. a prominent Congress leader in Haryana. 1999 when model Jessica Lal was shot dead in a party hosted by socialite Bina Ramani. investigative journalism came into popular existence in the 1980’s.“Miscarriage Of Justice” in the Jessica Lal Murder Case a. but it did help in the citizens in forming their opinions about the malpractices of the Indian government and the corrupt politicians. The Bofor’s scandal in which the then Indian Prime Minister. Many a times.
retired IAS and Army officers and MNC executives. 2006. Various support groups were formed to support the cause of “miscarriage of justice”. on 21st February. was a shining example of media interference. India arose to the situation and very soon people from 3 . These groups consisted of students. News channel NDTV is credited with forming a strong public opinion against Sharma and others who were allowed to roam scot-free after committing such a serious crime.after he offered money to her in exchange for a drink. which was passed on the Jessica Lal murder case. all the witnesses turned hostile and there were lack of proper evidences to nail down Sharma as Lal’s killer. modeling and Indian politics. he admits to have shot at Lal. thus killing her on the spot. led to a widespread public uproar which was initiated by the media. as termed by the media. Other than this. this was not taken lightly by the Indian masses. NDTV channel received thousands of text messages from various people urging that immediate action be taken against Sharma and the other accused. The involvement of numerous highprofile people in this murder case was anyway a topic of discussion in the media. Thus. about three hundred witnesses were interrogated in a lower court in Delhi. due to lack of evidences. it was acquired and aired by NDTV which bared the truth. as the legal procedure carried on. In the initial stages of police interrogation of Sharma. The acquittal of Sharma and the other accused in the case. People were losing faith in the Indian judiciary and the media had thrown light on this very fact. In the ongoing legal procedure. Media Interference in This Case The final verdict. This led to public outcry who demanded that justice has been denied. The media. the fact that the final verdict took seven long years was another thing that people were talking about. However. b. along with Sabrina Lal (Jessica’s sister) successfully organized a candle light vigil in front of India Gate in New Delhi. A widespread media campaign followed which grabbed the attention of the masses throughout India. This enraged Sharma who took out his pistol and shot twice at Lal on point blank range. The guest list of the party included the who’s who in the fields of fashion. However. Practically all the guests were interrogated by the police and were summoned in the court proceedings. the case had to be shut and the court acquitted the prime nine suspects. Thus. This tape was never produced at the court at the time of the proceedings which led to Sharma denying that he had shot at Lal. However. including Sharma.
One of the reasons why millions of Indians came ahead to support the case was because they could relate to the case.11 year-long battle for justice” from various newspapers and journals provoked the masses into starting public protests and standing for other’s rights. The immense public support and the growing pressure from media led the Delhi High Court to take notice and the case was reopened after an appeal by the Delhi Police. Media heavily resorted to investigative journalism in this case which paid off.various walks of life were standing up for the rights denied to Jessica Lal. “Jessica Lal.Priyadarshini Mattoo Case: Justice Delayed Not Denied 4 . The fact that the prime accused of such a heinous crime were left off without any punishment. Manu Sharma was finally pronounced guilty of killing Jessica Lal and he was given life sentence on 20th December. The efforts of the media helped the case to be reopened and justice was finally delivered. Never before had India witnessed public protests of such a magnitude. the faith that Indians had on the judiciary was near about 2. This case also unveiled the corrupt Indian system and the level to which they favoured those with power and money. This case study proves that media interference dramatically changed the course of the case. Fiery headlines like “No One Killed Jessica”. newsmagazine Tehelka organized a sting operation on the witnesses of the case in which they revealed that Venod Sharma had bribed them hefty amounts of money in order to stay mum about the truth in court. “Miscarriage of justice”.7. Such was the magnitude of the fight for justice by the masses that this case was made into a topic of a Hindi film “No One Killed Jessica” by Raj Kumar Gupta in 2011. Media acted as a regulator and more like a social activist to help the deceased Jessica Lal get much needed justice. ultimately. The intervention of media was very much desired as media helped the case to be highlighted as an example of gross injustice. carried out by Tehelka. The formation of public opinion regarding this case can be credited entirely to the media. angered the people throughout the nation. Case Study 2. A poll by newspaper Hindustan Times revealed that on a scale from 1 to 10. Delhi is infamous as being one of the most unsafe cities when it comes to the safety and security of women. The mass protests that it sparked off in India resulted in the case being reopened. helped to unearth the truth and helped in the legal proceedings of the case. 2006. On 9th September. 2006. This sting operation was aired by news channel STAR News. The sting operations. This is a classic example of media intervention resulting in a positive change in society.
both “in person and over the phone” for about two years prior to killing her in the most gruesome way. his father J. in the Vasant Kunj area of New Delhi. he served as the Joint Commissioner of Police in Delhi. The prime accused in this case was Santosh Kumar Singh. The contours of the case soon shifted to a high profile murder case from a case of a heinous crime.a. Singh had been harassing and stalking Mattoo. 1999. However. Singh) had used his power to influence the authorities. broken motorcycle helmet found in the scene of the crime. after Mattoo stated in her complaint that Singh was stalking her for quite some days. had kept away from the court 5 . In the duration of the trial. and other evidences. witness testimonies. DNA and fingerprint samples. In the aftermath of the horrific crime. this did not have any desired effect as Singh belonged to an influential family. Additional Sessions Judge G.P. Singh was let in by a domestic help of the house. giving Singh the benefit of doubt. In his 450-page judgment. She was found raped and murdered at her New Delhi residence on 23 rd January. Priyadarshini Mattoo was a 23-year old law student. strangled her with an electric wire and battered her head nearly14 times with a motorcycle helmet. What Happened The rape and murder case of Priyadarshini Mattoo and its subsequent lengthy trial came into the limelight soon after the Jessica Lal murder case. Judge Thareja wondered whether the “CBI during trial knowingly acted in this manner to favour the accused. It is also said that Mattoo had filed a police complaint against Singh and was provided with a personal security officer. On the morning of 23rd January. he raped her. Thareja acquitted Singh saying that “he (Santosh Singh) is the man who committed the crime” but was forced to acquit him due to lack of proper evidences. He entered the house saying that he wanted a compromise in the legal complaints that Mattoo had charged against him.P. on 3rd December. The case was passed to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) due the fact that Santosh’s father was an IPS officer. These were enough to nail Santosh Singh as the one guilty of the crime.P. Mattoo’s senior in her college. Santosh Singh was arrested after the complaints filed against him by Mattoo. living in Delhi. 1996. Santosh Singh was seen knocking on Mattoo’s house. Judge Thareja further blamed the Delhi Police for its inaction and also stated that the father of the accused (J. the very city where the crime was committed. However. Singh was the then Inspector General of Police of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. 1996. Consequently.” Judge Thareja mentioned that the CBI had not followed the “official procedure”.
Judge Thareja said. due to the lack of evidences. This was followed by widespread mass protests and media arose to this occasion. Chaman Lal Matoo. as a free man. the domestic help in Mattoo’s house was in hiding and was untraceable. Media Interference in This Case The final verdict of this case met with severe public outcry and heavy criticisms from the media. Singh had managed to walk out of jail. media resorted to investigative journalism to unearth hidden facts and evidences in this case. Media picked up on the fact that despite so many clinching evidences. the acquittal of Santosh Singh had caught the collective attention of the media as well as of the public. the court acquitted Singh. It was getting evident that the public were gradually losing faith and confidence on the Indian judiciary. Journalists had traced him to a village in Bihar while sleuths had claimed that he was missing. “The State had failed to bring home the charge of rape against the accused” although he had already declared Singh as “the man who committed the crime”. was giving frequent interviews to the media. The widespread public outrage was creating intense pressure on the CBI and the Indian judiciary.evidence collected by the court. it was stated that Virender Prasad. demanding justice for his deceased daughter. In the same way. The apparent absence of Prasad at the time of the trial had been one of the reasons of obstruction of justice. Prasad was a prosecution witness and was considered an important witness of this case as he was the one who allowed Singh to enter Mattoo’s residence on the day when the crime was committed. Media used its powerful tool of investigative journalism to find out the lapses in the murder case and very soon it was bringing into the public’s notice. how justice was denied to Priyadarshini Mattoo. which had sparked off massive wave of public protests in the country and heavy criticisms from the media. This further created a wave of public outrage and the masses were demanding an answer to these lapses in the Indian judiciary. Singh had even got married. b. 6 . fathered a child and had started his career as a lawyer in Delhi. In a similar way like that of the Jessica Lal murder case. In a previous report by the CBI submitted to the court. The case had occurred right after the acquittals in the Jessica Lal murder case. without being proven guilty of a single charge. had fabricated with the DNA samples and had denied the court of its opportunity to review the fingerprint samples. Priyadarshini’s father. Therefore. This created a massive wave of uproar in the masses who were demanding that the case be reopened. In the course of a few years after his acquittal.
K. News selects. praying and hoping for justice for Mattoo. This was considered a milestone achievement by the Indian media. The nation was getting tired of hearing cases of failure of the judiciary and rampant corruption and was looking for a radical change.On 29th February. Singh was the then senior IPS officer Director General of Delhi Police. over the years. J. The Court also blamed the inaction and partiality of the Delhi Police in coming to the aid of Mattoo when she had filed a complaint against Singh as his father. Due to the severe and increasing media scrutiny. This is highlighted with the help of the two case studies mentioned above. This only proves the efficiency. However. produces and shapes an event or happening.P. This is a very rare feat and the credit of this task can be entirely claimed by the media. The Delhi High Court took about 42 days to pass the final verdict. to make our own sense of the news. 200 the CBI ultimately submitted an appeal against the verdict of the District Court in the Delhi High Court. Bhasin and R. Sodhi. the death sentence was reduced to life sentence after Santosh Singh filed a plea in the Supreme Court. Media interference helped in the speedy trial of this case. Passing a verdict in such a short duration was indeed a first-of-its-kind event in the history of the Indian judiciary. It is said that news is a mere construction of an event or a happening or person. 2006. This is why the case is considered as a landmark reversal of judgments in the history Indian judiciary. Conclusion Journalism depends on the people’s perspective of news and news values. 7 . of this. readers. media has also assumed the role of an opinion maker and creator of public opinion. In spite. People were organizing candle light marches in various parts of the country. on 17th October. power and social responsibility of media in a democracy. the turn of events in this case shows that although justice was delayed for Priyadarshini Mattoo. Finally. The Court had passed this verdict based on numerous hard-hitting evidences. the hearing of the case was taken up on a daily basis by justices P. on 6th October 2010. Intense media coverage by various news channels and newspapers was creating a strong pressure on the CBI and the judiciary. processes. The intense scrutiny by the media had helped the case to be reopened and the CBI was also compelled to accept that it needed to pull up its socks in order to be more efficient in their tasks. But it totally depends on us. justice was not denied. However.S. the Delhi High Court pronounced Santosh Kumar Singh guilty under sections 376 (rape) and 302 (murder) under the Indian Penal Code and was awarded death sentence.
Over the years. who were earlier acquitted. Indian media is witness to various incidents ever since its inception. This role of the media is highlighted in both the cases. Both the cases involved high-profile people and this fact made the people all the more interested and aware of the proceedings of the cases. Investigative journalism was the main tool used by journalists for both these cases. thereby allowing for healthy social development in the country. There was widespread outrage and protests after both the murder cases were reported. As is seen from the two case studies. The power of press can also be understood in the basis of how the people respond and react to the news. The same people. The two murder cases are classic examples of reactive and responsible journalism which helped citizens get their rights. Both the cases can be considered as measuring sticks of the power of media in influencing the public and ensuring justice to the citizens. The investigations on part of media also helped to accelerate the trials of the cases. Both the cases are classic examples of high profile cases where initially. media has been quite powerful in forming public opinion. people with power and influence were managing to get away scot-free. were finally put behind bars and justice prevailed. It is very important to have a responsive and responsible media in order to have a healthy democracy. People had realized that justice had been denied and it was necessary to protest and speak aloud. we see that media interference helped in the rightful and proper closure of the case. This very fact was highlighted by media in both the cases and ultimately media helped the cases to be reopened. Therefore. As is seen in the two case studies. However. This function of media thereby allows the development of a strong democracy. media interference helped the hidden facts to be unearthed thereby allowing the judiciary to take notice of the loopholes and extensive malpractices of the administrative system in India. The use of investigative journalism in the two case studies highlights the power of media and the social responsibility of media in a democratic setup. One of the primary functions of the media in a democracy is to act as the opposition of the government and also stay neutral in the process. these cases in which investigative journalism was used proved the power of media in forming healthy public opinion. Both the cases also exposed the lopsided judiciary of India and how influential and powerful people manage to get away even after committing serious crimes. None of the cases would have got so much of importance in the judiciary had the media not intervened. 8 . This type of journalism is relatively new in the country and is still a topic of debate. we have seen that the power of press is to bring about social and political change or economic development in a country.
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