Improving relations between the media and the courts

Improving relations between the media and the courts

Background

In a democracy based on the principle of the rule of law, it is essential to strike a balance between the freedom of the media, on the one hand, and the right to fair trial, personal privacy, the presumption of innocence, and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, on the other. Due to the lack of sufficient and sound communication channels between the media and the judiciary, court reporting often takes place on the basis of speculation and insufficient or incorrect information, which serves to hamper the public’s confidence in the judiciary. This situation is compounded by a lack of basic legal knowledge on the part of many media correspondents.

The aims of the project and its core activities

The objective of this project is to provide the justice system with spokespersons and to create a sound, functioning relationship between the judiciary and the media. Under a previous EU programme, five courts were provided with trained spokespersons. That process is continuing, with a further 21 spokespersons undergoing training as part of the second phase of that project.

This current project now will assist the Ministry of Justice in disseminating the spokesperson system across the whole country. To achieve this aim, ministry officials will learn about best practices in the relationship between the judiciary and media by participating in study visits to EU countries. A total of 200 spokespersons are expected to be trained under the scheme, which will also result in the restructuring of the ministry’s press office.

The project will also work with independent media to train court correspondents. A draft curriculum for the media on court reporting will be prepared and about 100 crime correspondents will voluntarily participate in seminars on the balance between freedom of expression, presumption of innocence, right to receive information and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. A code of ethics will be drafted by media civil society groups with the involvement of the media, judiciary and academic representatives.