Business Bhutan - - Editoria -

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.

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