Article: History of mass trials and mass media

I co-authored an article for the French-speaking academic journal Revue de Science Criminelle et de Droit Pénal Comparé about the relationship between international courts and the media.

Together with Janet H. Anderson, I wrote about the unprecedented media attention for the Nuremberg Trials and what can be learned for modern international courts.

In 1945, journalists from more than 20 countries, staying at castles near Nuremberg in the months the trial was held, covered the tribunal. The majority – around 80 reporters – came from the United States, 50 from the United Kingdom, 40 were French, and 35 from the Soviet Union. Before, no other single event had attracted more journalists.

We argue that a key factor for the public mobilisation was the fact that the proceedings were carried out as mass trials with multiple defendants: the massive legal response mirrored the massive violence and triggered the interest of the media.

Media attention for international courts today

Similar dynamics are visible today at the International Criminal Court (ICC) where the proceedings generally do not receive a lot of media attention. In the article, we show that there is a link between the number of the defendants, the level of the defendant, and the expected media attention for the trial. We argue that trials with multiple, high-level defendants trigger most attention.

This model helps to better understand the relationship between media attention and international trials. We conclude that mass trials with high-level defendants today could trigger global attention and that such attention could lead to a greater interest for proceedings for international crimes. However, we also highlight that a maxi trial is no guarantee for continued attention and risks reducing criminal proceedings to a global media spectacle.

Read the full article: Les procès de masse et les médias de masse à Nuremberg et dans les tribunaux internationaux modernes