In a recent first of its kind consultative workshop organized by the Bhutan National Law Institute and Journalists Association of Bhutan, members of the judiciary, and the media came together to seek answers and find solutions to questions mainly associated with judicial reporting and coverage.
The workshop involved discussions on issues such as contempt of court, naming and shaming of suspects, sub judice and cyber crime, among many others.
Till now, the judiciary has had a reputation among the public and media fraternity as being an intimidating, draconian and overtly conservative institution. It is notorious for slamming the doors of information to supposedly nosy journalists who try to do stories on court cases, hearings and legal procedures.
While all the deliberations did not yield concrete answers with lines blurring between legal and ethical reporting compounded by a tidal wave of technicalities and terminology, during the workshop, the judiciary officials revealed that certain aspects of their profession held them back from going all out to the media even as they enumerated what they expected from the press.
For instance, some things the judiciary expected from media were fair and non-inflammatory reporting, sticking to facts and proper understanding of content of judgment. Factual errors needed to be done away with, said judiciary officials including lopsided reports while neutral analyses are permissible.
In the same vein, journalists explained what they wanted from the judiciary apart from stories. Journalists agreed that the intimidation factor plays a huge role while collecting information and the courts needed to work on the ambience and be flexible with court language. It was pointed out too that attack on a judge is not an attack on the institution.
The interface workshop between the judiciary and the fourth estate revealed some lessons for both: each cannot take the other at face value; there is more than meets the eye, and we should not judge too hastily. It also unearthed common prejudices and misconceptions that had lasted for quite some time because of communication gaps and maybe lapses from certain representatives from both the powers.
It is good that the debates and discussions have begun. Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” Without working together on mutual misgivings and misunderstandings, both the judiciary and the media cannot grow or function optimally as independent state powers.
To promote greater understanding and collaboration; mainstream media which tends to lean left, while the judiciary, right, should focus on dialogues and consultations. The media also acts as a bridge between the judiciary and people whom the former feeds information, therefore the crucial need of the day is to foster trust and cooperation between judiciary and media.
Also, the judiciary needs to remember that though its basis is credibility, it is definitely not sacrosanct. Meanwhile, media should do well to keep in mind that with great rights come greater responsibilities. So, if we are asking for freedom of speech, keep a tab on the words.
The “balanced” pen have, should and keep working (writing) wonders.