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Wednesday, 27 November 2019 11:50

Journalists Cautioned on Court Reporting


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 


Published in Latest News


The Justice, Law and Order Sector Publicity Committee held a successful training and planning retreat from November 21-22, 2013 whose objective was to lay success strategies and also provide an opportunity for capacity building in communication best practices. The JLOS Publicity Committee is a forum for all communication focal points from the 17 JLOS member institutions. The retreat was an opportunity for members of the JLOS Publicity Committee and other sector stakeholders to engage in discussions on how to strengthen the public relations function in the Justice, Law and Order Sector.


Held under the theme” “The Role of the JLOS Publicity Committee in promoting the 3Cs of Communication, Cooperation and Coordination” , the retreat was graced by acclaimed and seasoned professionals who facilitated sessions during the 2 day retreat. Justice Henry Peter Adonyo, a judge of the High Court and former chairperson of the JLOS Technical Committee opened the retreat with detailed exposition of the theme, discussing the history of the Justice, Law and Order Sector as well as the 3Cs model of communication, cooperation and coordination. Justice Adonyo told participants that their role as public relations focal points and communication officers casts them as main players in the sector’s vision of ensuring justice for all in Uganda because they interface with the public on a regular basis. He implored the JLOS Publicity Committee to be interested in the overall business of the sector so as to ably defend the sector position on various issues in the public domain.


Mr. Ofwono Opondo, the Executive Director Uganda Media Centre presented a paper on the recently launched Government of Uganda Communication Strategy highlighting various innovations and initiatives that when implemented will bridge the big information gap that currently exists in the public about government policies and programs. Notable among these is the proposed “Citizenship Interaction Centre” that will harness Information and Communication Technology tools to engage the public on issues relating to government programs. Mr. Opondo said that the Justice, Law and Order Sector having a number of member institutions that directly interface with the public will be considered to participate in the CIC project as a key stakeholder.


Other speakers during the retreat included Mr. Michael Niyitegeka and Mr. Adolph Mbaine. Mr. Niyitegeka, a respected communication trainer delivered a thrilling presentation on branding strategies and best practices informing participants that a brand is much more than corporate colors and logo but rather is the collective experience people have in the service delivery process. In the case of JLOS, Mr. Niyitegeka said that to strengthen our brand, we need to ensure that processes and services are streamlined, people oriented and effective in meeting our clients’ needs.


Mr. Adolph Mbaine’s paper gave interesting insights into the dynamics of the media world and how ICTs are changing the way we communicate. He acknowledged the increasing role played by “new media” such as social media and other online environments in information dissemination which has lead to mass “audience migration” from traditional media. He said that communication professionals have to evolve to this phenomena if they are to be relevant to their audiences that now demand information packaged uniquely and delivered differently.


The JLOS Publicity Retreat was designed to have intensive interaction amongst participants who engaged each other and the facilitators on various emerging issues. Key among these issues included the need for the sector to develop a comprehensive communication strategy (aligned to the Government of Uganda Communication Strategy); need to develop sector branding proposals; the need to deepen partneships with other stakeholders such as the Uganda Media Centre and the Uganda Communications Commission to harness available government owned communication facilities and infrastructure; need to strategically engage the media fraternity as an effective publicity mechanism and the need to strengthen capacity building programs for communication focal points in the JLOS institutions.


The Acting Chair of the JLOS Publicity Committee in his closing remarks said that these and other emerging issues would form the retreat recommendations, which will provide a basis for the development of the JLOS Publicity Committee Action Plan Mr. Didas Bakunzi also appreciated the sector for funding the residential retreat that brought together 30 members and stakeholders from JLOS institutions. In attendance were also chairpersons of JLOS working groups, committees and taskforces.


Mr. Paul Gadenya, the Senior Technical Advisor at the JLOS Secretariat said that the sector recognizes the central role played by the JLOS Publicity Committee in information dissemination to the public and pledged the sector’s support to publicity initiatives. Mr. Gadenya added that information today is the most potent weapon at the disposal of mankind . He said that “Information has come to define the powerful from the weak - the “haves” and “have nots” and most importantly, the allocation of scarce resources”. According to Mr. Gadenya, JLOS can therefore use the power of information to raise public confidence in the administration of justice and to demystify the legal sector.


By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Published: December 3 2013

Reprinting or republication of this article on websites or other media platforms is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to the JLOS Website, at the beginning or end of the report:

"JLOS Publicity Committee Concludes Training and Planning Retreat" is republished with permission from the Justice, Law and Order Sector."

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