He said that the judiciary would not relent in its efforts to update and equip media practitioners with relevant information to help them in court reporting.
“Do not run commentaries on court cases and know what guides the court during trials and please, let your report reflect the true picture of proceedings. Learn to avoid the use of inexplicit language and reportage that can lead you to being sanctioned for contempt”, Justice Asiedu cautioned journalists.
He made the call at a two-day workshop organised by the Judicial Service, to educate journalists on the judicial system, powers of judges and contempt of court, on Saturday, at the Sekondi High Court.
Participants, who were also taken through topics, including court room ethics, criminal and civil law, effective court reporting, legal terminologies, press freedom, improving access to justice and judicial independence, received certificates of participation.
A Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, urged journalists to report objectively on court cases, and avoid derogatory remarks, which could land them in defamation or contempt cases.
He said: “Accuracy and circumspection is very important in court reporting because it protects your image as reporters and the image of your media houses. Contempt is not to shield the court and judges from legitimate public criticism and expression of one’s view about a decision of a court, but it ensures that the authority of the court is not needlessly undermined by scathing and unjustified attacks. However, the freedom guaranteed by the constitution is subject to restrictions”.
Justice Baffour asked journalists to be careful not to compromise the proper course of ongoing or potential legal proceedings, but, rather to consider the presumption of innocence enjoyed by every person accused of a crime.
He said the decision to publish the identity of a suspect at the early stage of a case must be taken with a full understanding of its consequences, adding that if there was the need for the identity of a suspect to be disclosed, investigations must be followed to the end.
According to Justice Baffour the media may challenge court orders, but that decision must be done in accordance with due process.
The Chairman of the National Media Commission (NMC), Mr. Kwesi Gyan Apenteng, advised journalists to carry out more research, be fair, honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
He said “Don’t just report facts, report the truth by cross-checking information before using them as news”, he stressed.
A lawyer and journalist, Dickson Tweneboah Koduah, asked media houses to assign reporters to the courts to promote effective and accurate court reporting.
He also urged journalists to contact court registrars or lawyers for explanation on issues they do not understand before publishing them, rather than using their own judgement, that could result in the distortion of facts.
From Raissa Sambou, Sekondi