Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said today that the media should evolve ethics when covering high profile cases. But the timing and nature of his comments seem to be a reference to the way news channels have focussed on a particular politician.
"Privacy of individuals even in high profile cases is part of their right," he said, which seemed to be a reference to the relentless coverage of Shashi Tharoor in the case of the death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, last year. The case had been lying dormant for almost a year until the Delhi police said in January that the death was not suicide but murder.
The news coverage on television news channels since then has included details of witness testimonies to the police, including the couple's personal life, private conversations and even fights between Pushkar and Tharoor before her death.
"What was the relationship between a husband and wife, what was the kind of conversation they were having, these are areas which have absolutely no bearing on larger public interest and can only add some spice to the content of reporting," said Jaitley at the J.S. Verma Memorial lecture in New Delhi. Jaitley is also the union finance minister and will be presenting the budget next month.
He also criticised reporting that seems to put people on trial before courts have heard the matter. "The parallel trial concept prejudices the entire environment in which a person is to get justice. As far as certain trial courts are concerned, they are under tremendous pressure particularly in high profile cases where the media has conducted a parallel trial and almost declared somebody guilty of innocent."
Jaitley did not make a reference to Tharoor or the murder case, but the timing of his comments seems to be targeted at the media coverage of the same. Such criticism is not new, and has come up earlier when public figures have been accused of crime, and also in cases where the people involved were private citizens but the case became well-known, such as the murder case of teenager Aarushi Talwar. Journalist Patrick French had talked about unfair coverage of the case where certain media channels seemed to declare the parents guilty before court proceedings had begun.