Media trials curse or boon for democracy? The jury is still out

Jawhar Sircar, former civil servant turned Rajya Sabha MP pointed out that media trails were usually tempered by a sense of mission.

Published: 27th February 2022 09:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2022 09:36 PM   |  A+A-

Media, News, Journalists

Representational Image. (File Photo)

By PTI

KOLKATA: Are media trials a curse for democracy? Or are the pillars of India's democracy best served by the trials being conducted by the country's media? Media personalities, politicians, legal luminaries and eminent physicians debated whether "Trial by the Media is a Curse of our Democracy," at an annual debate organised by the nearly two-century-old Bengal Club here Saturday.

Eminent journalist and Editor of The Wire Siddharth Vardarajan pointed out that failure of the other three pillars of the "Taj Mahal of democracy" has made the task of the fourth estate even more difficult.

"Can any of us doubt that these pillars are crumbling?" Vardarajan asked as he pointed out that passing of laws by legislatures without adequate debate, cases of judicial delay in important federal issues, and bureaucratic overreach were undermining democracy.

"We in the media are trying to shine a light on topics that those in authority would not like light to be shone on," he said, pointing to among other issues, media reportage on the alleged Pegasus phone surveillance.

Jawhar Sircar, former civil servant turned Rajya Sabha MP pointed out that media trails were usually tempered by a sense of mission, such as reportage on Jessica Lal murder, Nirbhaya killing in Delhi or the killing of Rizwanur in Kolkata, which in turn helped unravel those cases and brought culprits to book.

"People get demoralised when nothing happens. Someone has to shake them (system) out of a stupor, to get justice done," Sircar said, adding that he felt it was the "incumbent duty of the media to take up trials to clean up the nation to serve democracy."

Defending the motion, eminent neuro-surgeon Sandip Chatterjee pointed out that the media at times lowers its standards by passing judgement "on everything and everybody", causing an unevenness of the platform of democracy.

"There is one thing worse than an uninformed person with power and that is an uninformed person with power who does not know when to stop using his power," Chatterjee said.

He warned that the race for TRP rating as well as media bias was a cause for concern which could undermine the country's democratic polity.



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