Analysing Media Crime
By Maxwell Pereira
spent a lifetime in the police department battling crime and bringing
criminals to justice. And in the process, necessarily interacting
with the media to a considerable extent. Even though this interaction
was invariably to try and project the good work the department
was putting in, more often it was plain and simple answering media
questions or reacting to an incident, crime situation, or a law
and order briefing warranted.
press of course, has its own mind. First hand reporting by the
footslogging cub-reporter who is fired by his/her own investigative
zeal would invariably attempt at incorporating something in the
coverage, which does not find mention in a rival’s report.
The race for a scoop invariably ending up with a healthy competition
and at times unhealthy one-up-man-ship!
all these years though, I have wondered whether the different
wings of media – the written, the radio and the visual television,
ever sit back to analyse their own reportage. Whether they take
time off to study the images of crime and the criminal justice
system presented by themselves through the major mass media wings
within the country. In particular, is sample reportage of crime
movies, television crime dramas, plus television news and newspaper
crime coverage selected as major sources of data for uncovering
how the media portrays the society's struggle with the crime problem!
wondered more on whether our members of the fourth estate and
even the governmental agencies and the academia in the universities
have ever endeavoured to understand and analyse the fundamental
role played by media in defining what constitutes deviance and
criminality in Indian society and made this matter a subject of
public debate or research!
a crucial aspect is the media's own image of crime. What types
of criminal behaviour and criminal offenders does the media focus
upon? Comparisons to be made with actual crime statistics to discover
whether certain types of criminals or crimes are underrepresented
or over-represented by the various media.
for example, are minorities and ethnic groups singled out by the
media as criminals at a rate higher or lower than their actual
participation in crime? Is every Muslim a terrorist, or every
Christian to be portrayed as a drunkard or a bar dancer? Or, are
"hate crimes" against minority groups given far more
exposure than warranted?
serious crimes such as murder and rape given exposure at a rate
that is so out of proportion to their actual occurrence that the
public is unnecessarily alarmed? Is it true that our Indian media
is obsessed over rapes to the extent for editors to prompt field
reporters to go hunting for rape and sex stories? Has the media
in fact created crime panics in such areas as kidnappings, child
abductions and child sexual abuse?
do we examine the several high profile news stories such as the
flagrant violations of laws and byelaws by politicians and the
powerful people? Is there an introspection of media trials the
accused in India are subjected to -with special emphasis on television
and today’s Internet coverage? Has there been any attempt
to analyse how the media covers such stories or trials? Is our
media also responsible for glorifying dacoits and criminals, to
virtually make them super-heroes – to help law-breakers
reach Parliament and become lawmakers?
issue is the criminal justice system itself. How does media portray
the police, the courts and the administration of criminal law,
and the Indian correctional (Jail) system? Has the government
ever made any attempt to focus on each of these three major components
of the justice process? Is there comparison of media images to
empirical studies of policing, the adjudication process, and punishments
addition, the use of new media technologies within the criminal
justice system itself. How have technological innovations such
as video cameras and multimedia computers changed the criminal
justice system? And what about analysis of the impact of the use
of ever evolving new and newer technologies? Especially in this
age of e-surveillance, telephone-tappings, and a majority of our
media having perfected the art of sting operations?
whether media coverage of crime is in itself a cause of criminal
behaviour. Do copycat criminals view portrayals of heinous crimes
or new crime techniques in the media and then decide to repeat
them? Has the constant emphasis on criminal violence in the media
produced an even more violent society? Does repeated exposure
to pornographic materials such as magazines and X-rated videotapes
lead to additional sex crimes?
major issue is whether media portrayals of crime that are accepted
by the public make it difficult for a more honest account of the
crime problem to be heard. Is reform of the system being impeded
by a less than adequate knowledge of the criminal justice process
among the public? How can criminology aid in presenting the public
with a more realistic understanding of crime? What is the role
"newsmaking criminology" has to play in this process?
recent times, television programs that reveal how police conduct
investigations have been accused of teaching criminals how to
evade detection. Legal experts find popular drama series and true
crime programs give away too much information about how crimes
are solved. The phenomenon has been dubbed the "CSI effect"
after the American drama Crime Scene Investigation, which shows
how a team of police uses forensics to crack cases. Science-savvy
criminals have been found using rubber gloves and hairnets to
avoid leaving evidence and even planting other people's cigarette
butts at crime scenes to throw the law off their trail. And experts
fear that the increase in knowledge about police procedures has
led to a rise in arson as criminals try to destroy any clues potentially
left at crime scenes. Is the study of media aspects of criminology
ever going to measure up in our country!
20, 2006: 950 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23,
Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and email@example.com
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