The media has constantly had a philosophical influence on how the public comprehends and perceives the criminal justice system in general. To a large extent, the media transform the workings of the system in different ways. Apart from the immense interest that the general community has with crime and criminals, citizens want to know how those crimes are exposed and handled or dealt with by the system. Therefore, the role of the media is, without doubt, essential as it for the most part acts as the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of the community. It can be an authoritative and practical means that contribute to corrective action in the demeanor of public business.
However, just like other aspects of the society, there should be limits or balance as the role of media cannot be compared to that of the government when it comes to obtaining information during a criminal investigation process and also the right to privacy of the individuals involved. Since it is not part of the criminal investigation or justice system, the media have no extraordinary or particular dispensation to access any information that is not generally obtainable to the public as a whole (Donnelly, 2013). They may act like they have extraordinary privilege in this sector; however, the person being charged or individual involved is under no coercion or compulsion to chat with the media or provide any information at all. The right to freedom of expression and the right to respect for privacy are both fundamental rights, and neither without human intervention trumps the other. Individuals’ information privacy should be protected by the media and other players as well as recognizing the importance of freedom of expression with an aim to strike or come to a fair balance. Therefore, the criminal investigation process when it is done through the media should maintain the balance on the subject of freedom of information and privacy rights of suspected perpetrators of crime. In most cases, when a crime is done by a criminal, it becomes exposed, and information concerning the criminal or case becomes misinterpreted.
One of the purposes or roles of privacy is to maintain a balance between individual and public dominance. While the media and public, in general, may have legitimate needs for information, without privacy protections, they can infringe on the personal space individual needs to thrive. Even though the media plays a significant role in the society such as informing the public, one of the risks of the information processing power of the media is that it may be used to distress that balance (Palmiotto, 2013). The balance between privacy and right to information is also reflected in the media industry code and therefore; that code lays down a proper balancing assessment or test for decision making on invasions of privacy.
In conclusion, information on criminal investigation must be balanced in the sense of trying to present all sides of the process of investigation. The media should strive for accuracy and truth when seeking for information without interfering with the privacy of the person involved.
- Donnelly, J., & Cornell University Press. (2013). Universal human rights in theory and practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press
- Palmiotto, M. (2013). Criminal investigation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press