\ By 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, [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
The workshop, entitled: “Promoting understanding between the judiciary and the press,’’ was organised by the National [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
Judicial Institute (NJI) in collaboration with the National [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
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workshop open, said “the era of secret judiciary and acrimonious relationship between the judiciary and the media had been replaced by open courtship’’.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.
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)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)