Chief Justice preaches importance of media and judicial independence

CHIEF Justice Ernest Sakala has said the independence of both the media and the judiciary is important to good governance and to the enjoyment of personal rights and freedoms in a democracy.
And the Chief Justice has advised lawyers to join hands in defence of the judiciary against unwarranted attacks.
Speaking during the 9th MISA Zambia annual media awards ceremony at the Golf View Hotel on Saturday evening the Chief Justice said the survival of relatively young democracies like Zambia largely depend on the existence of a free and independent media as well as a free and independent judiciary.
“And if anything a free media depends largely upon the existence of a free and independent judiciary. Secondly public acceptance of the courts is a basic requirement in an orderly democratic society,” he said.
He said respect for the judiciary was an essential part of the administration of justice.
“In this connection, the image of justice is created mainly by the media. Thus because relatively few people are involved in the administration of justice the public’s information about and impression of the judges and the justice system is shaped by the members of the media,” he said.
He said the media and judiciary complement each other in the prevention of crime thereby maintaining security in the country.
The media as a watchdog plays a pivotal role in community actions taken to prevent and expose crime.
“Therefore for the good of the country a free and independent media needs the existence of a free and independent judiciary and a free and independent judiciary also needs a free and independent media,” he said.
Mr Justice Sakala said the media and the judiciary through playing different roles provided checks on power and actions of the Government.
He said on one hand the media will expose to the public the impugned actions of the Government while on the other hand the judiciary through its supervisory powers determine the legality or otherwise actions taken by the Government.
He said in this way the Government and other authorities would try as much as possible to stay on the side of the law.
The Chief Justice said the Constitution protects the freedom and independence of both the media and the judiciary.
“The importance of the media and the judiciary in our society cannot therefore be overemphasised. The provisions in the Constitution relating to freedom of the media are clearly in line with the principle of separation of powers,” he said.
While the Constitution does not categorically say that the media is one of the arms of Government it is accepted in the democratic world that in practice the media is part of the Government.
He said lawyers have sometimes tended to take advantage of the free Press in their own way to secure a trial by newspaper and for self-advertisement in complete disregard of professional propriety and ethics.
Mr Justice Sakala said if the liberties of the media and the judiciary are permitted to conflict each other a way would be opened for unfair trails.
“But if these two great liberties – the right to fair trial and the right to a free Press are permitted to conflict each other, obviously the way will be opened for unfair trials on the other hand and for unbridled license on the other,” he said.
He said while the media plays a critical role it has sometimes not lived up to expectation by disseminating falsehoods, hate and provocative speeches and insults under the guise of Press freedom.
“Once a priest remarked that he was amazed with how some people rush to buy certain newspapers not for information or education but simply to read and know of the latest insults on the market,” he said.
He said journalists should not use their rights to hate or scandalise other people who are not in a position to defend themselves.
He appealed to journalists to be factual and ethical in their reporting.
“As media you are the agenda setting platform and what you put in the people’s mind will certainly bear fruit. Always seriously consider your way of reporting and ensure that the development of Zambia and not the destruction is placed at the fore of every story,” he said.
Mr Justice Sakala urged the media to follow the Electoral Code of Conduct in their reporting next year as the country goes to the polls.

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