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Journalists Cautioned on Court Reporting

Deputy CJ, Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo Deputy CJ, Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo

 

KAMPALA - The Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has warned journalists covering cases before court to avoid being judgmental in their reporting.

Owiny-Dollo said some journalists have a tendency of assuming the role of judicial officers in their reporting, which he says is not only contrary to the sub-judice rule, but also prejudice to the court proceedings.

‘Do not assign yourself the duty of judges to make a conclusion before court reaches its decision.” He said.

The sub-judice rule bars detailed public discussion of a case before courts of law.

Citing his decision to move the Constitutional Court sitting to Mbale in the age limit case, Owiny-Dollo said some journalists speculated on the decision and became judgmental on the matter was heard.

Owiny-Dollo made the remarks at the launch of a book titled Open justice a closed or open reality for Uganda’s media yesterday at Hotel Africana in Kampala.

The 66 page book authored by Freedom of Expression (FOE-HUB), gives an insight into media coverage of the judicial process in the country.

FOE-HUB is non-government organization focused on promotion of freedom of expression in the country.

Owiny-Dollo also backed the proposal by High Court judge Duncan Gaswaga of coming up with rules and regulations for journalists covering court proceedings.

‘There is no process in the world that is not bound by regulations because even God gave us the 10 commandments. I think the question should only revolve around whether the drafted rules promote the success of the court process because courts of law are not political rallies,” he said.

Owiny-Dollo, however, condemned judicial officers who conduct public hearings in camera without reasonable justification.

“I think it is not right to conduct court business in chambers unless there is justifiable reason,” he said.

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opio said the guidelines for journalists should cater for all parties involved in the judicial sector.

Anthony Wesaka, a senior court reporter, acknowledged the need for regulation of journalists involved in court reporting, but called for recognition of journalist as key stakeholders in the delivery of justice.

‘We should not be viewed as uninvited guests in the court proceedings because we are the eyes and ears of the public,’ Wesaka said.

Catherine Anite, the executive director of FOE-HUB, said media coverage, including broadcast of court processes, will help to build trust and confidence in the Judiciary.

“Regular broadcast will enhance the public’s understanding of the court process, and it is imperative for the judicial officers to allow journalists access to all maters unless there is need for witness protection,” Anite said.

Uganda Law Society boss Simon Peter Kinobe implored journalists to respect the sub-judice rule if they are to create an impact in the delivery of justice.

“Some journalists tend to judge people especially suspects as wrong elements even before the court process kicks off, which sometimes leads to a miscarriage of justice,” Kinobe said.

 

Article by Farook Kasule / Published in the New Vision on November 27 2019