Defamation Laws and Media Trials


   Defamation Laws and Media Trials

Introduction: Media is considered as the fourth pillar of society, the other three being executive, legislature, and the judiciary. In the present era, the media has become increasingly significant in various aspects of our economy, especially in terms of mobilising public opinion. Newspapers, T.V., Internet, etc. are some sources to keep us in touch with the media.

Therefore, in the current time, it is almost impossible to imagine a life without the role played by the media. It has become an integral part of our life without which our lives would be incomplete. It is necessary to regulate the affairs of the media through effective laws. 

 Who is celebrity :  In 2012, the Delhi High Court defined a celebrity in Titan Industries Ltd. vs. Ramkumar Jewellers (2012) as “a famous or a well-known person and is merely a person to whom many people talk about or know about” and further went on to say that “the right to control the commercial use of human identity is the right to publicity”.

Need to protect celebrity rights: Celebrity rights are generally assignable and licensable commercially. In today’s world, public relations costs a lot of money, and a celebrity’s public image is extremely valuable. Recognizing this valuable item as property means that it will be taxed as a capital asset, similar to any other intellectual property. This generates an economic incentive for the general public, and superstars are sufficiently compensated due to their moral claim to money derived from their celebrity.

   Defamation Laws and Media Trials

The right to publicity can be passed down through the generations. As a result, a celebrity’s descendants can benefit from the celebrity’s notoriety during his or her lifetime.

There is also a need to protect the performers by removing their sense of insecurity caused by the threat of technological unemployment. to prevent bootlegging and control the exploitation of performers who are unable to handle their own situations.

 Defamation: In law, defamation is the act of assaulting another’s reputation by false publication (communication to a third party) with the intent of bringing that person into disgrace. The notion is enigmatic, with only human creativity limiting its variations. A defamatory statement is one that is intended to cause hatred, contempt, or ridicule toward a person, or to harm him in his trade, business, profession, calling, or office, or to cause him to be shunned or avoided in society. In order to bring a defamation suit, the plaintiff must have suffered some harm to his reputation. Defamation, defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, can be committed either by the way of writing or by the way of speech. The term ‘libel’ is used for the former kind of utterances and ‘slander’ for the latter. Slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation.

The murder of Sushant Singh Rajput is one of the most recent cases in which the media has taken the lead in shaping people’s perceptions and establishing facts and secrets even before the CBI or police discover them in India. It was observed by Justice D.Y.Chandrachud in Romila Thapar & Ors. v. UOI (2018) that the way in which the police misuse the media makes an impact on the reputation of the people that are part of the case. He also stated that “the use of electronic media by the investigating arm of the state to influence public opinion during the pendency of an investigation subverts the fairness of the investigation. The police are not adjudicators nor do they pronounce upon guilt”.

People may use the media to malign someone, resulting in the person’s and his entire life being destroyed. or even persons without a job or an aim can become renowned. In the #MeToo movement, several people in the industry were charged and labeled as rapists. Not all accusations are true, and not all accusations are false. However, it is our responsibility as members of a society to understand and verify which information is correct and which is not.

Conclusion: Media has evolved and altered over time, from the Bengal Gazette to digitalized forms. In contrast to the United States, India does not have a distinct provision protecting press freedom. The media should not be hampered by political constraints or influences in order to operate freely. It should also not have to make editorial judgments based on ratings, audience, or sponsors in an ideal world.

Conducting debates or conversations on ongoing cases is pointless because most of these disputes are fatal in the absence of evidence and a true legal trial. Nowadays, there is an abundance of information available. As a result, there is an inbuilt pressure to perform and stay active on television and other media at all times. Given how competitive the media landscape already is, how can we reasonably regulate media without undermining its democratic purpose? And who should be in charge of enforcing these limitations?

Without a doubt, the media should be allowed to publish news. Even so, when it comes to interfering with the legal system, the judiciary has the potential to facilitate a fair set of rules. These restrictions should not jeopardise the quality of reporting, but they should set important boundaries for sensitive instances in India to avoid media trials.


Author:-Dipangshu Dutta, a Student of Snehangshu Kanta Acharya Institute of Law, Kalyani University


Q.1 What is the law of defamation in media?


Defamation in media refers to the legal principles governing false statements or representations made through various forms of media, including print, broadcast, online, and social media. To prove defamation, generally, the following elements must be present:

  1. False Statement: The statement must be false and damaging to the reputation of the subject.

  2. Publication: The false statement must be communicated to a third party.

  3. Identification: The subject must be identifiable in the statement.

  4. Fault: Depending on the jurisdiction, the plaintiff must show that the statement was made with negligence or actual malice in some cases (especially for public figures).

Defenses to defamation may include truth, opinion, fair comment, and sometimes statutory protections for journalists and media organizations. The laws governing defamation can vary by jurisdiction, so it’s important to consult local laws and legal experts for specific guidance.


Q.2 Can we file defamation case against media?

Answer:- Yes, you can file a defamation case against the media if you believe they have published false and damaging statements about you. However, defamation laws vary by country, so it’s important to consult with a legal expert in your jurisdiction to understand the specific requirements and procedures for such a case.


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