Privacy and the Media: A Critical Analysis

However, the media has developed alternative themes to strike a balance between reporting and monetary gaining. Television channels in a bid to increase their TRP ratings are resorting to sensationalized journalism with a view to earn a competitive edge over the others. Sting operations have now become the order of the day. In law enforcement, a sting operation is an operation designed to catch a person committing a crime by means of deception. A typical sting will have a law-enforcement officer or cooperative member of the public play a role as criminal partner or potential victim and go along with a suspect’s actions to gather evidence of the suspect’s wrongdoing. Now the moot question that arises is whether it is for the media to act as the ‘law enforcement agency?’

The carrying out of a sting operation may be an expression of the right to free press but it carries with it an indomitable duty to respect the privacy of others. The individual who is the subject of a press or television has his or her personality, reputation or career dashed to the ground after the media exposure. He too has a fundamental right to live with dignity and respect and a right to privacy guaranteed to him under Article 21 of the Constitution.        [Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others11, Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Another12].Today, it is being witnessed that the over-inquisitive media, which is a product of over-commercialization, is severely encroaching the individual’s right to privacy by crossing the boundaries of its freedom. No doubt, the sting operations carried by the media can give effect to minimize the biggest challenge our country is facing that is “Corruption” and many other such evils. The weapon which was meant to fight these evils is being misused and is now a product for blackmailing and intervening the privacy zone of a person.

The second practice which has become more of a daily occurrence now is that of Media trials. Something which was started to show to the public at large the truth about cases has now become a practice interfering dangerously with the justice delivery system. A person is made culprit in the eyes of the public even before the court decides. Trial by media has created a problem because it involves a tug of war between two conflicting principles – free press and free trial, both of which the public are vitally interested. The freedom of the press stems from the right of the public in a democracy to be involved on the issues of the day, which affect them. This is the justification for investigative and campaign journalism.

A number of decisions of the U.S Supreme Court confirm the potential dangerous impact the media could have upon trials. In the case of Billie Sol Estes,13 the U.S. Supreme Court set aside the conviction of a Texas financier for denial of his constitutional rights of due process of law as during the pre-trial hearing extensive and obtrusive television coverage took place. The Court laid down a rule that televising of notorious criminal trials is indeed prohibited by the “due process of law” clause of Amendment Fourteen.

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