By Lerato Ndlovu
The Zimbabwean Judiciary Services Commission is keen on introducing live broadcasting during court sessions as a process of hearing and adjudicating disputes.
Live broadcasting sessions are expected to create normalcy and bring credibility to the judicial services as it presides over citizens to the citizen, and government and citizens disputes
In his address during an occasion to mark the beginning of the 2020 legal year, Chief Justice Luke Malaba, said that the broadcasting of court proceedings is vital to the country by promoting transparency and accountability while members of the public will be able to know what is going on in court.
“I noted that live broadcast of court proceedings promotes transparency and public confidence in the justice system, fear of sensationalism is allayed through strict regulation of the broadcasting process so as to protect the dignity of the proceedings. The factors often referred to an argument in support of live streaming through the television of court proceedings are transparency, accountability, responsiveness and justice.
“Our jurisdiction has been slow in warming up to this development that is widely being practised in other countries within and beyond the Southern African region, the broadcast of court proceedings is inescapable when seeking to disseminate information concerning the administration of justice and enforcing accountability of the Judiciary,” he said.
He stated that in order to enhance transparency within the courts and the public it becomes necessary for the courts to go beyond the opening of court doors for those who will be able to attend court sessions.
“In order to enhance transparency and dispel notions of secrecy and suspicion, it becomes necessary for the courts to go beyond opening court doors to members of the public who are able to attend court and allow live broadcast of cases of public interest. Televising court proceedings allows the public to keep abreast of what happens during the exercise of judicial power.
“Few people are able to attend court proceedings at any given time, yet cases of public interest do not only affect the litigants before the courts, with broadcasting the public will have the opportunity to observe first-hand court proceedings as they unfold, for instance, the Constitutional Court only sits in Harare, yet people from all corners of the country are invariably interested in the proceedings before that Court.
“This results in operations of courts being considered as secretive by the public resulting in the ordinary man and woman viewing the decisions made by the courts with suspicion,” he said.
According to Malaba, the innovation would inspire confidence in the functioning of the judiciary, giving it the respect deserved as a co-equal organ of the state. He revealed that the live streaming of the 2018 Presidential election petition geared the innovation, hence the idea to make this a permanent feature.
“The unprecedented live broadcast of the Presidential poll petition in 2018 marked a new era for the Zimbabwean Judiciary, it demonstrated our Judiciary’s commitment to upholding the values of transparency and accountability, ” he said. “This case opened up a new window in the administration of justice in Zimbabwe, soon after that, other cases of public interest were broadcast live in the Supreme Court.”
“The feedback the Commission received from the generality of Zimbabweans about the live broadcast of court proceedings has been positive. It vindicates our decision on the issue,” he added.
The introduction of live broadcast sessions will encourage the public’s right to know and be informed and also help avoid second-hand information from spreading.
However, it is yet to be seen if the government commits to living to broadcast of legal sessions as the state broadcaster is currently incapacitated, with the ZBC TV only providing a two-hour coverage per week for parliamentary sessions.
Some media experts have also argued that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe which is entitled with allocating broadcasting licenses to media players should provide licenses to interested parties to improve coverage as the state broadcaster acts on a partisan basis while turning a blind eye on broadcasting judicial proceedings.