A curious circular | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:14 AM, May 17, 2019

A curious circular

The Supreme Court administration yesterday asked print and electronic media to refrain from reporting on ongoing cases at the court.

Md Golam Rabbani, registrar of the High Court Division of the SC in the notice available on the SC website said, “It has been noticed recently that some electronic and print media are giving scrolls or publishing news on ongoing cases, which is absolutely unexpected.

“Under the circumstances, it is being requested, upon orders,

that all concerned refrain from publishing news or put up scrolls about ongoing cases,” the notice read. It did not specify if it was applicable only to cases being dealt with the SC or all courts in the country.

Copies of the notice were also sent, among others, to attorney general, law secretary, president/secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), chief information officer and some media outlets.

Reporters of print and electronic media outlets regularly cover proceedings at the Appellate and the High Court divisions. They also report on important cases pending with other courts.

When Law Reporters Forum members met Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain at his office on April 9, the CJ said, “Write what you see. But you [journalists] should remain careful so that the dignity and image of the judiciary are upheld.”

The forum, in a letter to the chief justice yesterday, requested that the notice be withdrawn as it goes against the statement of the CJ and freedom of the press.

Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik said, “I think this is clearly a request, certainly, not an order.”

Someone can request the media regarding news items but this is certainly not an order as such an order would interfere with the right to freedom of expression, he said.

“However, the media should confine itself to reporting facts and must not publish any comment or analysis on the case,” he said.

Sohel Haider Chowdhury, general secretary of Dhaka Union of Journalists, said journalists, through their reports, make facts of a case public. They do not make any comments.

He said media played vital roles during the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman murder case, war crimes trials, and other sensational cases.

“If a blanket embargo is imposed on reports on ongoing cases, people will be deprived of information,” he added.

He also said journalists should be careful while covering judicial matters.

LAW REPORTERS FORUM

The forum, a platform of reporters who cover law, human rights, and constitutional issues, said they were saddened and shocked by the notice.

A letter signed by LRF President Wakil Ahmed Hiron and General Secretary Nazmul Ahsan Raju said that the people got to know what was going on in the Bangabandhu killing case, jail killings case, and the war crimes trials as journalists were in the courtrooms covering the proceedings.

The media has been acting as an associate force in ensuring transparency of the judiciary, it said. 

“The LRF thinks the circular issued by the High Court Registrar Golam Rabbani, based on an ongoing case, is contradictory to the Chief Justice Mahmud Hossain’s statement and goes against freedom of the press.”

Journalists have been covering sub-judice matter maintaining all rules and regulations, it said.

SCAB PRESIDENT, AND AG

SCBA President AM Aminuddin said the media sometimes publishes reports on conversations that happen during case proceedings, which could damage the image of the court.

If journalists report on court orders in public interest, it would not be contemptuous, he said, adding that the Supreme Court could prohibit reports on sub-judice matters.

He told The Daily Star that violation of the SC administration’s notice could be tantamount to contempt of court.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told The Daily Star, “In my opinion, the Supreme Court administration issued the notice so that the image and dignity of the court are not harmed because of a few judges.”

The judiciary will take action if there was corruption or mismanagement in the judiciary, he said, adding that the media should not report in such a manner that erodes people’s faith in the judiciary.

The attorney general also said the media reports on court orders in any case.

The notice issued by the SC registrar made the rounds on social media where people, including journalists, demanded it be withdrawn.

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