TRIAL BY MEDIA LAWS

TRIAL BY MEDIA LAWS

Trial by media laws

 

The impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt or innocence before, or after, a verdict in a court of law has given birth to the term of Trial by media. It is a phrase which has come into being and has become popular in the late 20th century and early 21st century. The media are often accused of provoking an atmosphere of public hysteria akin to a lynch mob during high-publicity court cases, which not only makes a fair trial nearly impossible. It also has the damning effect of public opinion triggered by media, which means the accused, regardless of the result of the trial will not be able to live the rest of their life without severe public analysis. There is a counter argument, though, that the mob mentality exists independently, whether or not the media is involved which merely voices the opinions which the public already has.

 

Popular media can have a strong influence on the legal process goes back definitely to the beginning of the printing press and probably much further back, although the term has been recently coined. In its commonly understood meaning Trial by media laws cover all occasions where the reputation of a person has been drastically affected by supposedly reflecting the views of the person in the street in non-political publications. Apart from this, there is also the use of a state-controlled press to criminalize political opponents. Trial by media laws has come under increasing scrutiny and journalists are calling for higher standards for the responsibility of the press to confirm reports and leaks about individuals being tried. For example, there was much debate over U.S President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and how the media handled the trial by reporting commentary from lawyers which influenced public opinion, which also affected prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigation.

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