Media Helping Media was contacted by journalists in Gambia who wanted training modules written about the basic journalistic rules for covering court. Legal restrictions will differ from country to country, but Bob Eggington has put together his top 12 tips for those about to report on court proceedings.
1: Operating within constraints
Courts of law are a controlled environment. Court reporters must operate within these controls.
2: Remember who is in charge
The judge is in charge of the court and what happens inside it. The judge has to keep order and usually has the power to imprison those who show contempt of court. That could include you.
3: Know the local laws
Most countries have their own sets of laws covering court reporting. You must know them inside-out. Journalists need to act within the law or they may end up in the dock themselves.
4: Focus on the key facts
The most interesting things about any trial are usually the verdict and the sentence. These will normally provide the lead to your story (assuming the trial has finished).
5: Avoid trying to do the judge's job
In most countries there is a presumption of “innocence until proven guilty”. This should be borne in mind while a trial is in progress and reflected in your copy.
6: Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy
Ensure you get EVERYTHING right. Check names, spellings, titles and responsibilities. Fair and accurate journalism is the basic requirement.
To read more, click here.
Photo by herzogbr, Creative Commons Attribution License