The Study of the Relationship between Mass Media and the Investigative Machinery

For any new happening around the globe, the populace in majority cases, get first-hand information from any of the forms of Mass Media. For the majority, Mass Media forms the primary source of information, giving a greater perspective on a matter concerned. This development of perspective has further led to the development of interaction between the means of Mass Media and the machinery of the Justice Delivery System, thus establishing a new System, overall. Information published on any of the forms of media, for instance, Hard Media or Soft Media establishes major leads for cases, that furthers to clues forming pieces of information, that form the nodes of an investigation.[i] In light of these propositions, we may comprehend that Mass Media plays a very vital role in investigations, and herein this article we would discuss the relationship between Mass Media and Investigative System, their mutuality, interdependence, and impact on one another.

The meaning of Mass Media

Mass Media is essentially a term given to sources comprising of print media (say, newspapers) and digital media (say, the Internet and Television) that carry information about issues related to all the sundry matters, making it one of the most efficient sources of data collection. In recent decades, the devices of Mass Media have proven themselves as an efficient source of acquiring statistics, and data-based information for developing an analysis-based approach towards a matter, making it an aide for the investigative procedure.[ii] In the recent decades, Investigative Journalism has become a very crucial methodology for bringing major crimes and malpractices into the light, ambling forth what we term as “Objective Truth” in its most appropriate sense of ideal-type information, which concretizes the role of Media in an investigation.[iii] In the Post-Modern world, Mass Media has performed various roles, limited not only to investigations but also covering examination of the negatives and positives of consequence attached to a phenomenon, concretizing its role as the “Fourth Pillar” of the democratic setup.

How does Mass Media aid in Investigation?

Mass Media in the modern-day context has great relevance to the field of investigation. Hereunder are some of the major avenues where Mass Media comes to the aide of the investigative system and allied fields,[iv]

  1. Mass Media makes a robust source for investigation on specialized issues like business, government, politics, and the like, consolidating relevant information from archives, and records gathered from various sources for furthering investigations.
  2. Interviews or Oral Statements recorded, broadcasted, or published on a particular mass media platform forms into pieces of evidence to further concretize a fact helping to build up a case thus facilitating the investigation.
  3. From the very advent of Mass Media, it has been the most credible source of gathering information to facilitate an investigation in its preliminary stage. In many landmark cases, Mass Media has played a pivotal role in establishing important links to the causal chain of events to support an investigation.
  4. Mass media further aids in formulating public policies through comparative analysis, which if effectively enforced forms, by far, one of the most adaptable methods for procuring data and an effective tool altogether.
  5. Investigative journalism which is a conglomeration of Mass Media devices and Investigation has become an imperative methodology for bringing major malpractice, and consequences of criminal actions before the world-view. It aims at formulating good practices in society and enables its receiver to understand a problem through the “how” perspective, thus making an effort to ameliorate the negatives.
  6. Mass Media devices have also enabled the people to develop proper understanding to form their own perspective on a certain issue.  It has made a huge impact on the stratum of society, at large, by bringing forth some of the most controversial issues to light, thereby encouraging the stratum to make their opinion and judgments.
  7. Mass media through the release of CCTV footage, broadcast of criminal trials and the like has in recent times added a greater degree of lucidity in the overall justice delivery system, further facilitating the entire investigative machinery.

Critics of Mass Media as a tool of Investigation

In the modern-day, although Mass Media devices, by far, has become an important tool for investigation in many countries like India, Germany, Australia, people still accommodate some apprehensions in accepting it as an elementary mainstream platform for investigation of crimes. Critics of Mass Media have since long been criticizing this juncture for being a subjective platform, biased towards the elitists and the affluents who influence the information published on such devices.[v] It is also criticized because not everything that is presented before us is the truth, in reality, it could be the subjective truth or a narrative that a particular device wants to implant in the viewer’s/reader’s brain.[vi] Considering the present era of “fake news”, reliability is the major issue that mass media is dealing with and this is also the major reason it is ranted against.[vii]

In many cases, Mass Media creates its own theories, meanings, and imagery, to establish and favour a particular type of narrative, based upon preconceived notions. These narratives are assessed by various individuals, who based upon their understanding and suitability establish their own perspective which does not stand true to the objective fact of reality.[viii] Consequently, when the very narrative is crocked, the idea gets more perverted thereby drastically affecting the overall social constructs of the facts and the idea behind it.[ix] In light of these observations, it may be concurred that a suited amalgamation of the Mass Media and Investigative Mechanism is a herculian task, if not impossible firsthand.

Mass Media as a tool of investigation in the 21st Century

Mass media in the 21st century has given individuals great access to the world around them and has significantly minimized the distance between the diaspora around the globe. By way of Mass Media, the interaction between Police and Public is facilitated. Through rights like the right to free speech and expression, an individual not only imparts his perspective upon an issue but also furthers a full-fledged discourse on the same.[x] In light of these, we may see that Mass Media does play a very significant role in contemporary times, helping people understand an issue on one hand and makes efforts to further the entire investigative system to placate criminality thereby aiding the Justice Delivery System, on the other.

In light of these submissions, it may be concurred that a conglomeration between Mass Media and investigative measures is the need of this hour, for which the legislator needs to acknowledge fresh possibilities that are end-oriented, and are advantageous in forming a mutuality that could aide in decreasing Criminality, thereby placating Crime.[xi] It is also to be noted here that as our dependence on Mass Media increases new problems are deemed to arise, for instance, subjectivity and biases. To prevent such problems it becomes a responsibility of Media Houses to change their “bias-led” perspective, to give up their power-lust, and show simply the fact of the matter, as much as possible, close to the objective truth.[xii] This is possibly the only resolve through which mass media could aptly be helpful in the investigative machinery in its truest and most ideal sense of public interest.

Conclusion

The development we are encountering now has, on one hand constructively transformed the whole of media, creating new possibilities every day, but on the other hand, challenges have also emerged within investigative machinery which are directly engaging with criminals and crimes. It is high time now to lay greater emphasis on the utility of Mass Media and its effect on the overall machinery of the criminal justice system. People need to understand its benefits in the prevention or reduction of their efforts in relation to crime. The proliferation of information should be made the basis for Indian media and it is only through these measures can the media aid in the investigation and crime control.


[i] Gregg Barak, “Between the Waves: Mass-Mediated Themes of Crime and Justice”, Social Justice, Vol. 21, No. 3 (57), 1994, pp. 133–147. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29766830,  (last accessed 5 June 2020, 03:40 PM).

[ii] Shrishti Natani, “Role of Mass Media in Investigation”, https://www.researchgate.net/project/role-of-mass-media-in-investigation, (last accessed 5 June 2020, 03:42 PM)

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Gemma Birkett, “The Role of the Media in Women’s Penal Reform”, Women and Criminal Justice: From the Corston Report to Transforming Rehabilitation, (edited by Jill Annison et al.), 1st Ed., Bristol University Press, Bristol, 2015, pp. 231–248. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1t89c43.17, (last accessed 5 June 2020, 03:45 PM).

[v] Ola Kazeem Falodun, “Role of the Mass Media in Relation to Crime and Deviance”, https://www.academia.edu/14573322/Role_of_The_Mass_Media_in_Relation_To_Crime_and_Deviance, (last accessed 5 June 2020, 03:40 PM)

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Supra Note 2.

[viii] Supra Note 1.

[ix] Supra Note 1.

[x]IndJustice, Role of Mass Media in Investigation, https://indjustice.com/technologyandmedia/2019/6/11/role-of-mass-media-in-investigation, (last accessed 5 June 2020, 03:45 PM).

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Supra Note 5.

Pratyush Pandey from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

You can find him here

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