MĀRGA

MĀRGA – Media And its Role in Governance and Accountability is an initiative by DAKSH which examines the role of the media in governance and accountability, especially in the justice system, and explores avenues to deepen democracy through strengthening the role played by the media.

The idea of MĀRGA arose from a realization that the standard of reporting by the media on the justice system has a direct bearing on the public’s trust in this system. This further affects the manner in which the public engages with law enforcement and courts. We aim to encourage legal reporting that is accurate, ethical and easy to understand. We believe the media is a close associate of the justice system and the principle of open courts requires the media to report on legal issues in a fair and simple manner.

OBJECTIVES

Improve the media’s reporting on the justice system and other public institutions.

Providing specialised training required for media practitioners, media academicians and media students in this area.

Engaging in facilitating structured, reliable, and timely modes of interaction between the media and public institutions.

Building a community to share ideas, experiences, and best practices

We intend to achieve this through consultations with all the stakeholders, advocacy, sensitisation/awareness campaigns, training, curriculum design, research publications, round tables, conferences

Relations between the police and the media

The public relies heavily on the police and the media for information, especially during a crisis, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. In times of crisis, law enforcement needs the media to communicate a clear and consistent message to the public. At the heart of police and media relations are credibility and trust. Additionally, a good relationship with the public is vital for law enforcement because the public is an essential information source for the police. Through MĀRGA, DAKSH wants to engage in improving the communication of appropriate information between the police and the media. This involves creating an environment of trust where there is a system through which essential facts relating to cases and the workings of the police can be efficiently and effectively passed on to the media by authorised representatives within the police system...
The public relies heavily on the police and the media for information, especially during a crisis, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. In times of crisis, law enforcement needs the media to communicate a clear and consistent message to the public. At the heart of police and media relations are credibility and trust. Additionally, a good relationship with the public is vital for law enforcement because the public is an essential information source for the police. Through MĀRGA, DAKSH wants to engage in improving the communication of appropriate information between the police and the media. This involves creating an environment of trust where there is a system through which essential facts relating to cases and the workings of the police can be efficiently and effectively passed on to the media by authorised representatives within the police system. Such a system can use various avenues to communicate, e.g. press releases, press conferences and social media, depending on the circumstances. The police should be mindful of what platforms work best for what purposes and how traditional media and social media can improve police-public relations. On the other hand, the media must respect the fact that there are certain legitimate and legal limitations on the information that the police can share, particularly concerning ongoing investigations. The media should not disclose victims’ identities, accused persons and witnesses if the police have explicitly requested these to be kept confidential.

Relations between the judiciary and the media

The principle of judicial independence implies that judges need to be impartial and independent from outside influences as public opinion or political pressure. Given this principle, the relationship between the judiciary and the media is practically non-existent. It is important to move away from this scenario and develop and systematise this relationship. The public perception of the judiciary is moulded in part by the media coverage of the institution. Indian courts function on the open courts’ principle, meaning that everything that happens in a court is public unless prohibited by law. Although judgments and orders are available for free, they are not always expressed in language and length for ordinary people to understand, including journalists to understand. Thus, the judiciary needs to create communication channels to the media whereby accurate information...
The principle of judicial independence implies that judges need to be impartial and independent from outside influences as public opinion or political pressure. Given this principle, the relationship between the judiciary and the media is practically non-existent. It is important to move away from this scenario and develop and systematise this relationship. The public perception of the judiciary is moulded in part by the media coverage of the institution. Indian courts function on the open courts’ principle, meaning that everything that happens in a court is public unless prohibited by law. Although judgments and orders are available for free, they are not always expressed in language and length for ordinary people to understand, including journalists to understand. Thus, the judiciary needs to create communication channels to the media whereby accurate information about court proceedings can be communicated to the latter in easy-to-understand language. Specific officials of the court should be designated as points of contact for the media. Such officials should be available for the media to interact with so that the court addresses matters with one voice. They can summarise arguments and judgments in important cases to ensure that the reporting on these is fair and accurate. Courts should also periodically organise interactions with the media where deeper issues regarding the justice system can be brought to the media’s attention, and both institutions can discuss how to improve relations between them.

We conduct and design workshops on ethical legal reporting for students and young professionals interested in journalism. We are developing courses and resources with the aim of improving the quality of legal reporting.

We undertake research on how to improve the standards of legal reporting. This includes analysis of existing standards for accuracy, legal and self imposed. We study the concerns of the reporters, the structure within which they function and their interaction with the various components of the justice system. Click here to read our reports.

We are actively building a community of reporters, editors, industry leaders, researchers, legal practitioners, law enforcement officers and judicial officers who want to solve the problem of inaccurate legal reporting. With their help, we are creating a repository of resources that will help reporters understand the nuances of the justice system while reporting on it.

INITIATIVES AS PART OF MĀRGA

We regularly conduct conferences, talks and roundtable discussions to engage different stakeholders and brainstorm on media accountability and emerging ethical concerns. Check out our latest events below.

  • Rule of Law Project
  • Access to Justice Survey
  • Blog
  • Contact Us
  • Statistics and Reports

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