Fair trials and media reporting: A need to rebalance demands?



This study will seek to establish the relationship between media reporting and free trials for individuals, companies and/or other parties always involved in the corridors of justice. At the same time the study will seek to establish how the relationship can be rebalanced to favour everyone in this crisis. The study endeavours to explain how the relationships between media reports and free and fair trials can be rebalanced without compromising nay party involved. The study will particularly look into people who have always found themselves in such circumstances whereby they do not get fair trials in their cases as a result of much media intervention. Particularly the case will look into the case of famous actor Robert Hughes of the Hey Dad! fame and some few other trials that have in the past been influenced by media reporting.  Relevant literature will be reviewed on this topic and other related topics to bring out a good picture of the topic in question and the best analysis of the same. Rational choice or exchange theory and social conflict theory will be used to analyse the topic in study. The study will use ex post facto research design. The study will partially rely on secondary data with minimal primary data being considered due to the sensitivity of the topic of the study. Snowball sampling will be used to identify the respondents who at the time of this study might not be willing to remain anonymous. All available cases will be considered in this research unless they exceed ten in number. The researcher will use questionnaires and interviews to the subjects of free trial. The data will be coded, encrypted and entered into a computer awaiting inferential and descriptive analysis. This analysis will help the concerned stakeholder to derive the recommendations in the research report and come up with the best policy framework to rebalance the relationship between the two conflicting variables as laid out in the research question.

Table of Contents

Abstract 2

Background of the study. 4

Statement of the problem and Objectives of the study. 5

Research questions. 5

Research approach. 6

Significance of the Research. 6

Literature review.. 7

Research Design and Methodology. 9

Research design. 9

Target population. 9

Pilot study. 10

Data analysis. 10

References. 11

Background to the Study

This research was prompted by the recent criticism in which media houses are facing while reporting major high profile cases. In the recent past most media houses have used the criminal cases reporting to enhance their publicity and advertise more on what they can offer.  The recent case where the media incriminated Robert Hughes provided the springboard for this research not forgetting the case of Strauss-Khan. The research will be carried out to elaborate more about the relationship of the two and how they have grown over time. In any case the research will seek to recommend how this tangle could be solved once and for all. The research proposal is very crucial to government, companies and other judicial stakeholders as well as both independent and vulnerable individuals working or living under any capacity. The results of this research will be very important to any players who are part of the judicial system as well as people who advocate for the rights of both individuals and corporate. The research once concluded provides important solutions to one of the most recurrent issues in today’s media issues that include intervention for their own self interest or otherwise seek of publicity in the most uncouth ways. The media which has for sometime been criticised for their bogus interest into high profile trials that takes place in both corporate and entertainment world. The media would repeatedly report his case on print, social audio and audio-visual media. To this effect it is therefore important to look into ways in which media reporting and free trials are rebalanced without incriminating either of the party. The report will be very critical to provide information that ensures media reporting does not incapacitate the trials taking place along any corridors of justice. More so it will help hold the reputation of the judicial systems that have had their names tainted due to the reports by the media that they give unfair justice to the criminals. However at the same time the research proposal will enhance the freedom of expression of most media houses. The report of this research will ensure that the media is not gagged by the recent reports by other researchers that they have been wrongly incriminating suspects who deserved lesser or no punishment. By claiming that the media is intervening with free trials leading to unfair sentences to criminals, it would critically seem like other stakeholders in the society are gagging up the media forcing them to fail in their work which is to inform people.  This report will find out how the media and the judicial systems could be intertwined so that the news they report about high profile cases are not incriminatory, exaggerated or misinforming in nature.

Statement of the Problem and Objectives of the Study

The media houses have for long been subjects of criticism with most of them emanating from reporting of criminal cases (Great Britain 2009, p. 7). In most cases the media houses have been by far condemned for this act with most researchers saying that they are reporting this to gain fame. This comes as a result of most media houses not following communication policies that have been put in place by most of the administrations or as a result of the same houses not being aligned into the same governments.  The media houses should be aligned with the policy framework to ensure that they do not misinform and at the same time allowed to report all the info that they get provided it has proof, is valid and does not compromise any situation whatsoever.

Research Questions

This research will be aiming to report the following questions among others:

  1. Should the media be limited to reporting some information only? This will enable the researcher go into details of media freedom and measures taken to guarantee this. This should however be contextualised in all cases of media reporting.
  2. Should the media be blamed for unfair sentencing of criminals? This will force the researcher go into details of the relationship between the media reporting and free trial with an aim of giving suggestions how the two can be rebalanced without compromising the other.
  3. In any case does the media houses interfere with the judgement issued by some courts and how? The researcher will be forced to get into details as to who is to blame for unfair judgements in high profile cases. Is it the media to blame or the judicial systems in this case? More so the researcher will recommend how this can be eloped whenever such a case crops up.

Research Approach

The research will use the pragmatic approach to research that is both qualitative and quantitative approaches (Belk 2006, p. 199). Some of the data will be converted into numerical form to establish the number of cases where the above research problem exists. This will involve tallying the times the above problem has cropped up and at the same time get the number of times the above cases has been solved permanently. Qualitative approach will allow the researcher to get a general preview of the whole situation and its effects on the media reporting (Sirakaya-Turk 2011, p. 125).

Significance of the Research

The media after this research is finalised and analysed will be able to give any reports without much criticism as has been the case before this research will e done. The stakeholders of the media fraternity will be able to invest into any story without the fear of being criticized. More so media will create avenues of retaining their freedom to report judicial matters in countries where their freedom has been limited to only report matters away from the judicial circles. This study will be of much use to everybody willing to invest into the media and communication industry not forgetting the social media.

Literature Review

Available literature has focused on media reporting of criminal trials that have happened over time (Leishman & Mason 2012, p. 11). Much attention has been paid to the cases where media reporting has interfered with judgement of high profile cases and cases where and how this has been resolved to rebalance the two. The section also reviews cases where the media has highlighted criminal cases where the judicial systems have failed to honour justice. This section focuses on cases of the above and theoretical framework of the research problem.

Since the era of communication development many negative things have been said about media houses (Friedrichsen 2012, p. 149). As if this is not enough after media broke from the rings of monopolistic culture media houses have used all means, right or wrong, to enhance their publicity and lift their sales up in what seems like to be competition of the slow growing audience. In most cases the media has used bogus ways to do this raising a lot of criticism. One such case is where the media darkens or lightens up the corridors of justice while incriminating or at the same time proving criminals innocent. Owing to the power of media the judicial systems are left with no option but to go with the sway of the media (Berger & Luckmann 1966, p. 123). However, in some cases the media has been very useful in bringing to limelight what the courts of law have been unable. A very recent case was that of Strauss-Khan who the media purported that he was guilty even without their investigation. Highlighting one sided allegations damaged the reputation of the high profile person. Robert Hughes of the Hey Dad fame is also another case where the media made the crime he committed look so nasty that he had to be sentenced unfairly and at the same time tarnishing his image. The social media provided the largest platform of the incrimination of this famous actor. The case of Nitish Katara murder in India would have gone unpunished were it not for media reporting (South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (Tirunelveli, India), Jaishankar, & Ronʼel 2011, p. 205). The media unearthed the story and made sure the security organs liaising with the judicial systems had the culprits caught and fairly punished.

Certain sociological theories could be used to analyse this research problem. Owing to the fact that the media is part of the society it should be looked as a part of the society.  Social conflict theory could help the researcher understand that the conflict between the media houses and the judicial systems could be as a result of organs of the society conflicting (Abeyratne 2014, p.54). According to Karl Marx, the society conflicts due to nonexistent of an egalitarian society (Newman 2008, 25). The media could be so much interested into high profile cases as a result of its endeavours to pursue justice of the vulnerable society. The media could be following these stories to ensure that people who violate the rights of the vulnerable society. In short the media will be trying to end the conflict between the vulnerable and the powerful part of the society. The rational choice theory or utilitarianism argues that while interacting individuals will sometimes seek to pursue their own self interest. Media houses could be using these criminal cases to uplift their facial appearance with an aim of making themselves more popular before their divided audience. With growing competition media companies could be using this as a way of favouring themselves before the crowd. The researcher should look in to the effectiveness of these two theories as they apply to the research problem.

Research Design and Methodology

The subject matter in this case is both qualitative and quantitative in nature. However it is more qualitative than quantitative. The subject matter is more behavioural. However some of it could be converted into numerical form to make it easier for a valid conclusion. The researcher needs to test all parameters in this research problem for a better evaluation of this problem (Miller & Yang 2007, p. 89). The study area will not be specific since most of the data will be secondary. However the researchers might go to Australia to interview Robert Hughes. The research will be both empirical and theoretical in nature owing to the parameters in the study.

Research Design

The study will employ survey design. Survey design usually involves collection of data on a number of variables at a single juncture (Jindal & Taneja 2012, p. 34). Survey design is also referred to as correlation design to denote the tendency for such research to be able to reveal relationships between variables (Bryman & Cramer 2001, p. 13). The study will use ex post facto research design that involves teasing out possible antecedents of events (observing dependent variable) that have already occurred and cannot therefore be engineered or manipulated by the researcher then studies the independent variable in retrospect (Kerlinger 1970, p. 43). This type of survey is suitable since the clash between the media and criminal cases has already occurred and can only be studied retrospectively.

Target Population

The target population in this case is the media houses that have been found in this judicial triangle. This will involve media houses that have reported high profile cases. Media houses not exceeding ten will be studied especially in Europe and Australia. For people to be interviewed snowball sampling will be used to identify subjects of this research problem. People not exceeding ten will be sampled with priority being given to people ling in United Kingdom.  Random sampling will be used to identify five respondents. Their names will be written on papers and a blindfolded person will be asked to pick five to ensure that a represented sample is chosen. The study will focus on media houses and subjects of reported high profile cases as its unit of analysis. People not far away from the researcher will be physically interviewed. Those far away from the researcher will be mailed questionnaires which they will be expected to fill in. this will ensure that data collection is as cheap as possible.

Pilot study

A pilot test will be conducted on the area of the study for the researcher to familiarize with it (Nunes et al. 2010, p. 74). Following the pilot test, modifications on various questions will be made to clear up ambiguities. Also several questions will be rephrased, clarified and others made more relevant to the context of the study problem and area.

Data Analysis

Data analysis will be done using descriptive statistics. The data collected will be edited in the field to ensure that all the questions are answered and answered correctly (United Nations, & Conference Of European Statisticians 1994, p. 225). The data will then be coded; the coding involved assigning numeric values to the qualitative data then entered it into a computer and then analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 11.5 for windows. Cross tabulation also known as contingency table which is part of descriptive analysis will be used to show the presence or absence of a relationship between variables (Bryman & Cramer 2001, p. 49).

The researcher will consider the anonymity of the respondents. To ensure voluntary and informed consent, the researcher will explain to the respondents the purpose of the study; identify himself using the research permit. The respondents of the study will be protected by the fact that the information they give will be kept confidential and in private.


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