Does Media Hype Influence Judgments? EX-IPS YP Singh Explains

How is information in sensitive cases sourced by the media? YP Singh sheds light on how media can affect trials.

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High intensity car chases and unsubstantiated reports have left viewers with a bitter taste while consuming the news lately. As news channels compete to bag the ‘first to break’ tag, do facts end up taking a back seat? Former IPS officer and lawyer YP Singh believes that media reporting sometimes becomes so overwhelming that it could lead to undermining the process of trial.

“As we see in so many cases, if there was no media hype, with reference to a particular case, even for instance cases related to Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik and other accused. These are such frivolous cases that in normal circumstances they would have got bail immediately,” says YP Singh.

“But when there is such a media hype, the judge who is handling the case naturally, he’s a human being, and he even though he would profess that he has not got influenced by any media trial, but the fact remains that gets into the backdrop.”
YP Singh, Former IPS Officer and Lawyer 

Information on cases under investigation is usually accessed by the media through the concerned agency probing the case or through sources. Things turn murky when channels try to enhance their TRPs by undermining the competition, points out Singh. A few years ago, the media used to show news that people ‘should’ watch, this has now paved way for stories that the viewers ‘want’ to watch, he adds.

“In other words, serious news has been relegated to the background, juicy, spicy and sensational news has come to the fore. This is a very dangerous position with reference to the intellectualism of the country for its overall economic and academic advancement.”  
YP Singh, Former IPS Officer and Lawyer

Defamation Cases to Tackle Fake News

If misrepresented by a channel or publication, the individual does have a legal recourse. If accused without any substantive evidence, a person can file civil and criminal defamation suits against the broadcasters. However, if the person isn’t named, there are no laws to initiate action in such cases, says YP Singh.

There is a world of difference between the quality of reporting in India and in western nations, says Singh. In the West, guests are treated with respect and even contentious questions are asked on purely academic merit, he adds. This is a stark contrast to the TV debates witnessed in India.

“Unfortunately, in India, media believes in sensation, they come out with cheap news, without any veracity without any cross-verification, and they want to come and have discussions in the TV debates by indulging in very by using such words, which many a time would we even on the verge of being unparliamentary words, they love insulting guests, so that people relish the drama.”
YP Singh, Former IPS Officer and Lawyer 

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