The Bihar Post

‘Media trials are anti-thesis to the rule of law,’ says rights body chief Justice Dattu

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Bengaluru: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India chairperson Justice HL Dattu today said that the Commission recognizes and cherishes the media as a valuable ally in addressing human rights violations in the country.

However in order to become genuine protectors of human rights, the media will have to steer clear of sensationalism and provocative journalism, which can cause considerable damage to not only the concerned persons but also vitiate the larger socio-cultural-religious relations in society, he opined.

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Justice Dattu was delivering the inaugural address at a workshop on “Role of media in promotion and protection of human rights”, organized by the NHRC in collaboration with National Law School of India University, NLSUI, Bangalore.

He said that the role of media in highlighting the acts of commission, omission, abetment and negligence of the State and its agencies, which result in rights violations, is indispensible to the work of the Commission.

There have been several instances when media has acted as an agent for constructive change and notable developments within human rights jurisprudence, he said.

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Describing journalists and other associated with media as human rights defenders, he said that attacks on them by vested interests are condemnable for not only do they weaken the freedom of the media but also democratic processes.

“Media is very powerful but ‘with great power comes great responsibilities’ also,” he observed.

He said that the ‘Golden Triangle’, comprising equality before law, freedom of speech of expression and the protection of life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution provide the broad framework of rights and responsibilities that the media must actively speak to operate within.

Describing media trials as very anti-thesis to the rule of law, he said that these may lead to a gross miscarriage of justice, which is a matter of urgent concern and required to be pondered over by the media in earnest.

He quoted a key recommendation in the 200th report of the Law Commission of India that…. Journalists need to be trained in certain aspects of law relating to freedom of speech in Article 19 (1) (a) and the restrictions which are permissible under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution as also of various human rights and Law of Defamation and Contempt.”

“Unfortunately, in recent times, it has been observed that 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 unorganized sector, among others. It appears that human rights violations only committed by the State and its various agencies against the urban elite and middle classes are now considered worthy of mainstream media space,” Justice Dattu said.

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