The Relationship between the Media and the Criminal Justice System
The modern mass media, an all-encompassing body to which contemporary western society stringently relies upon as a source of information, is the major outlet to which the masses are able to readily and easily access news and current events, regardless of the location or the time in which it occurs throughout the world (Mutz, 1989). Whilst strictly, the media may only suggest an opinion for an individual to uptake, constant reiteration of a specific viewpoint from numerous media outlets may eventually create doubts in even the most resilient minds, further emphasizing the vast influence of the media (Ericson, 1995). The vast majority of individuals lack the necessary knowledge and understanding surrounding the criminal justice system and as such, relies on the media as one of their few limited sources of information on the criminal justice system. Due to this, both true and false interpretations of the criminal justice system on television manipulate and affect the public’s values and opinions regarding the stereotypical appearance of what the common criminal appears and performs like (Reiner, 2007). The television also helps to form the public’s beliefs of the classic manner for resolving a crime and the way in which criminals ought to be scolded (Reid, 2012). Through the use of contemporary Australian examples and theoretical explanations, the relationship between the media and the criminal justice system will be further explored and examined.
According to Kidd-Hewitt (2002), the media portrays crime through the notion that crime is on the increase. The media suggests that aggressive crime is more widespread than it actually is and that sociopathic predators commit the majority of crimes. The media further suggests that the elderly, women and white individuals are the most frequent victims of crime and that the media portray crime as becoming increasingly random and more likely to be committed by strangers (Kidd-Hewitt, 2002). According to Dowler, Fleming and Muzzati (2006), the media’s representation of crime frequently takes advantage of cultural stereotypes, particularly when coverage is on illegal offences by marginalized individuals. For example, even though the concern of household violence impinges upon a sizeable number of citizens all over Australia, broadcasted news media regularly describes it as solely a difficulty amongst non-Caucasian populations. Dowler, Fleming and Muzzati (2006) further conclude that adding to ethnic stereotypes, the depiction of criminality and oppression concerning marginal individuals receives much less coverage and awareness than that of white individuals. In conjunction to what has been mentioned previously, the way in which the media portrays crime can be explored through a recent Australian example from September 2012. A public riot, which took place in the Sydney CBD as a means of protesting against an anti-Islamic film saw “violence erupt in central Sydney as hundreds of Muslims protested against a controversial film about the Prophet Mohammed” (Bashan, 2012). Generated by a YouTube video, the Sydney CBD was shook by a riotous encounter linking over one thousand protesters. According to Bashan (2012), the events that took place on this day presented disgracefully brutal pictures that appalled the countries citizens, as the police force were needed to utilise capsicum spray throughout the ongoing and uncontrolled protest with furious rioters. The media portrayed this event as extremely violent and warned residents to remain vigilant as the police were concerned that the violent behavior could occur once more, regardless of wishes and requests from the police force for both harmony and tranquility (Bashan, 2012). This example helps to reinforce the way in which the media exposes crime through their use of disturbing graphics, recorded videos and strong wording in many publications.
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