Promoting Harmonious Relationship Between The Media And Judiciary- Mark Longyen

Observers claim that healthy relationship between the judiciary and
the media is indispensable to the sustainability of rule of law and
democracy in Nigeria.

According to them, stakeholders in both professions ought to
understand the importance of this relationship and its role in
democratic settings to inspire public confidence in governance.

They observe that there must not be frictions between the judiciary
and the media in which the judges will view the media as an
antagonist.

They note that the objectives of the judicial reforms are efforts in
futility, if the media, perceived as the intermediary between the
judiciary and the people, is not carried along.

In his opinion, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, former Chief Justice of
Nigeria (CJN), observed that there was somewhat unwritten arrangement
involving good symbiotic relationship between the judiciary and the
media.

While delivering a speech at a media event in Lagos recently, he said
when he was CJN, he deliberately developed a media policy that ensured
regular relationship with the media to encourage transparency.

“Instead of viewing the media as the enemy, the justice system should
acknowledge the essential role the media plays in informing the public
of legal developments.

“The judiciary should promote dialogue with members of the media to
ensure that reporting is accurate, prompt and complete.

“Where there is no publicity there is no justice, for publicity is
the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the
surest of all guards against improbity.

“It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial,’’ he said,
quoting an English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.

Corroborating Musdapher’s viewpoint, stakeholders solicited closer
collaboration between the judiciary and the media at a training
workshop for judiciary correspondents in Abuja between Dec. 3 and Dec.
4, 2014.

The workshop, entitled: “Promoting understanding between the
judiciary and the press,’’ was organised by the National Judicial
Institute (NJI) in collaboration with the National Association of
Judiciary Correspondents.

The CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who declared the workshop open, said
“the era of secret judiciary and acrimonious relationship between the
judiciary and the media had been replaced by open courtship’’.

According to him, the trend is the realisation of the crucial role
that the media plays in promoting the rule of law, democracy,
integrity, probity and transparency in the judiciary, among others.
Justice(1)
While underscoring the importance of the training workshop, Mohammed
said newsmen who were reporting the activities of the judiciary should
be properly trained in the usage of judiciary vocabulary.

“Gone are the days of acrimonious relationship between the judiciary
and the press when the relationship was not clearly delineated and the
activities of the judiciary shrouded in secrecy.

“In the past, the judiciary completely lived in its cocoon and any
prying eye of the media into its affairs was treated as a satanic
invasion or demonic intrusion that must be resisted by all means.

“Most judges and justices now court the press for self-projection,
while media reportage of pending cases in court are no longer seen as
satanic invasion or demonic intrusion.’’ he said.

Stressing the importance of good relationship between the judiciary
and the media, Justice Roselyn Bozimo, the National Judicial Institute
Administrator, solicited greater partnership between both bodies.

She noted that the hitherto unnecessary acrimony and friction between
the two entities were not healthy for the integrity of the judiciary.

“The press is the spokesmen of the judiciary and should, therefore,
be courted as friends and not despised as enemies. They deserve
collaboration with the judiciary, not absolute disconnection.

“Its regular reports put judicial officers on their toes and expose
corruption within the system.

“The issue of poor funding of the judiciary at all levels, for
instance, was exposed to the outside world by the press, she observed.

Bozimo, nonetheless, stressed the need for the judiciary to forge a
healthy cooperation with the media, insisting that any deficiency on
the latter’s part would engender inaccurate reporting with grave
consequences.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the workshop, the stakeholders
resolved that “the relationship between the media and judiciary is a
necessary symbiosis which must be maintained.’’

They also resolved that the relevance of a free press and independent
judiciary was essential to building and maintaining public confidence.

According to it, journalists are held in high standard in serving the
public and ought to be more sensitive in their work towards ensuring
that public confidence reposed in the judiciary is not eroded.

It also urged journalists to “ensure the maintenance of the highest
standards of professionalism in the discharge of their duties to
inspire public confidence and prevent unnecessary acrimony with
judges.

“Having regard to the important role the press plays in the
dissemination of information, accuracy and clarity must be employed
when simplifying complex legal language in their reports.

“There should also have respect for the court and the rules of court.’’

It also urged the judiciary to continue to protect and uphold the
rights to freedom of expression and opinion enshrined in the 1999
Constitution as amended.

The participants at the workshop emphasised the need for providing
modern electronic court recording equipment to ensure efficiency and
transparency in recording court proceedings as obtained in other parts
of the world.

All the same, concerned citizens insist that the public should be
well-informed about court proceedings via the collaborative
partnership of the courts and the media.
(NANFeatures)

Author: News Editor

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