Journalistic Public Opinion
Jessica Lal Murder Case –
Sue-Ellen Fernandes St. Andrews College TY BMM. 4259 Introduction
Media is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy. Media has wide ranging roles in the society. Media plays a vital role in molding the opinion of the society and it is capable of changing the whole viewpoint through which people perceive various events. The media can be commended for starting a trend where the media plays an active role in bringing the accused to hook. There are different reasons why the media attention is particularly intense surrounding a legal case: the first is that the crime itself is in some way sensational, by being horrific the second is that it involves a celebrity either as victim or accused. The concept of trial by media is not a new concept. There have been many occurrences in the past where the media has been accused of conducting a trial on its own and passing a verdict even before the court does. There is a conception that the Jessica Lal murder case is was also a media trial. Case Study
On 29 April 1999, Manu Sharma had shot Jessica Lal in front of 200 witnesses at a Delhi restaurant, Tamarind Court, where she was a barmaid and refused to serve alcohol to him after 2 a.m. In February 2006, witness after witness went back on their original testimonies in court. This same case did not get enough coverage and within no time and Manu Sharma was acquitted. Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model tells us how news gets covered based on the News “Filters”. Manu Sharma’s father, Venod Sharma was a Congress MP and later a minister for power in the Haryana Cabinet. Being quite influential and rich he falls in the first filter of the propaganda model. This was undoubtedly the reason why the news did not get much or any coverage in the media. In January 2006, India was high on the fervor of Rang De Basanti, and longed to ‘do something’. Few people know that the protest was galvanized by Tehelka. Editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal drafted the simply worded SMS that went viral, announcing a candlelight vigil for Jessica at India Gate. Having picked the time and date, he and the other editors Harinder Baweja, Sankarshan Thakur and Shoma Chaudhury agreed the message should be anonymous to avoid competition between media houses. They sent it out to everyone they knew. Would people come? They did, in huge numbers. On 4 March 2006, almost 2,500 people came to India Gate. This was the beginning of the first mass society theory in India. Public outcry forced authorities to reopen the case. Mass society theory states that the mass media is a very strong portal for communicating to the masses, as whatever is portrayed through the media channels has a significant influence on the masses. Thus the mass media is a powerful instrument in molding society. This is partly related to the fact that since the mass media communicates to not just the individual but also his peers, peer pressure also adds to the effectiveness of the communication. A poll conducted by the newspaper Hindustan Times showed that on a scale of 1 to 10, the public's faith in law enforcement in India was about 2.7. Public pressure built up with newspapers splashing headlines such as "No one killed Jessica", and TV channels running SMS polls. Tehelka quietly began what would turn out to be among its biggest investigations yet. It was Tamarind Court owner Bina Ramani who began the process. She was facing tremendous flak for not being convincing in court while identifying Manu Sharma. Conversations with her got Tehelka thinking about the role of Venod Sharma, Manu’s father, in the turning of witnesses. Soon Tehelka’s expose had uncovered the...
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