NO LAW BARING JOURNALISTS FROM RECORDING COURT PROCEEDINGS, SAYS ATURU
FOR Bamidele Aturu, a Lagos-based Human right activist, the transparency and integrity of Nigerian courts bother on its openness and unhindered access to the public during proceedings.
But since all Nigerians cannot be in court at the same time, he believes that the journalist as the fourth estate of the realm of the society represents the people by covering and giving accurate report of court proceedings except in cases of juvenile matters and military court-marshals.
It was not surprising therefore when he recently condemned the act of baring of journalists from mechanical recording of court proceedings in Nigeria and described it as subtly and illegal means of shutting the public from court proceedings by judges. According to him, there is no law behind the act.
Aturu, who was speaking on the topic, Press law and court proceedings at a capacity building workshop organised by the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC) in Ikeja, Lagos said he will soon initiate a legal action to challenge the anomaly because of its implications on judicial reporting in the country.
He pointed out that court proceedings are supposed to be in the public in order to allow every body access to the administration of justice.
He reiterated the need for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) by the National Assembly to guarantee press freedom in the country.
According to him, without civilized access to information, it really does not make sense to talk of freedom of the press in any country or polity (even though freedom of information is not meant for the journalists alone).
'The importance of the press for any democratic society or society aspiring to be democratic is no longer debatable', he asserted.
Aturu also condemned the act of carrying out court proceedings in chambers saying since the judiciary occupies a high pedestal in the scheme of liberal democracy, it was unacceptable to do so.
The constitution, he said provides that cases shall be heard in public because court proceedings on important constitutional issues are crucial to the building of that democracy.
'The enemies of FOI are therefore enemies of peace, progress and development of Nigeria and they must be fought as such.
'Thus the FOI issue is also and very clearly an issue of power. This is why some of the people opposing the passage of the Bill today would rather die than see it passed. The immediate implication of this is that the proponents of the Bill, and every decent citizen should work out a sustained political strategy against the opponents of the Bill', he added.
He regretted the inability of the citizens to protest and until the National Assembly passes the bill into law.
The struggle for FOI, he said requires a combination of actions, from legal actions to civil disobedience to any action necessary. The trade unions, which need information for proper and effective bargaining, he said ought to organise strikes to force members of the National Assembly to pass the Bill.