New Delhi, June 23: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson and former Chief Justice of India Justice H L Dattu on Thursday emphasised that the media should steer clear of sensationalism and proactive journalism to become genuine protectors of human rights.
He was speaking at a workshop on ‘The role of Media in Promotion and Protection of Human Rights’ at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU).
Justice Dattu was critical about the current trend of “trial by media” by some news channels.
He said, “A particularly worrisome aspect concerning the media are the ‘media trials’ under the guise of ‘debates’….. The news anchors act as the judge, jury and prosecutor – all roles rolled into one.”
Justice Dattu opined that media debates, which seem more like screaming matches, completely overlook the nuances of the issue being discussed and often blur the fine line that separates an accused from a convict.
Citing the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) case, he said, “Recent events in JNU, a central university of great national and international repute, and the role of a certain section of the media in whipping up public frenzy, which led to mob violence in court premises and even the threat of its use against the accused… is a pertinent case in point.”
Justice Dattu noted that the mainstream media often fails to reflect some of the pressing challenges that confront large sections of society including Dalits, Adivasis, women, rural poor, urban poor and workers in the unorganised sector, among others. He lauded the role of the vernacular media for continuing to highlight important human rights issues from the forgotten regions of the country.
Earlier, addressing the gathering, NLSIU vice chancellor Prof R Venkata Raolauded
the role of the media. He expressed concern over the safety of journalists, who in exercise of freedom of expression, become victims of attacks. He said it is the responsibility of the state to provide protection to mediapersons.
MeeraSaksena, acting chairperson of Karnataka State Human Rights Commission, opined that mediapersons need to be cautious in exploring the angle of scoop while reporting. She felt that people’s rights should not be trampled on a rush to achieve TRPs and circulation targets.