Media and the Judicial process: Contending with trial by Media
kankondo, Shawa James
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"Trial by media" refers to a peculiar kind of reporting adopted by the media in reporting criminal trials which may interfere with the administration of justice. In general terms the evil of "trial by media" consists in dissemination of matters that do not come before the court, or other trafficking with the truth intended to influence proceedings or inevitably calculated to disturb the course of justice. Specific examples include: publishing of inaccurate reports, improper publicity of court proceedings and unjustifiable commentary of criminal action and trials. Freedom of expression and freedom press is often cited in defence of trial by media. But the freedoms do not extend to uncontrolled expression of either alleged fact or opinion or the right to influence judges or juries. The freedom is limited to fair and accurate comment. No matter how vicious or revolting a crime may be, the person accused is entitled to a fair trial while, courts are entitled to their integrity and freedom from improper influence of any kind in order for them to carry out their functions properly. In the United Kingdom almost every publication that in any manner, and even any degree, tends to affect the determination of pending causes, is pronounced as contempt. It is not strange for proceedings to be halted or convictions quashed on the basis of judicial acceptance that pre-trial publicity rendered, or would render, a fair trial impossible. This power is drawn from the Contempt of Court Act of 1981. Whereas the law on contempt in Zambia is basically covered by the Penal Code in a single provision and the Contempt of court (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act focuses on contempt of certain proceedings held in private.
- Law