Freedom is considered to be the principle concept in the democratic functioning society; the rights of free expression through the media are reflected in major aspects of social, economical and political life, as well as the system of justice. The role of media in the courtroom is merely determined through its influence on the public; it is a kind of instrument controlling social opinion and providing impact not only on people but also on the victims and the defendants. The problem of afree press and fair trial is considered to be centralized in the USA and other countries, where the government strives to protect national rights and freedoms. The introduction of a court media coordinator is one of the most appropriate ways out of the contradiction between the press and the system of justice, together with ‘voir dire’ process and hearings privacy, as these aspects are not aimed at rights and freedom pressure of both parties of the conflict, but protect them form prejudiced interference.
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The solution to Problem: Media Coordinator
Media Coordinator is always appointed by general decision of the Supreme Court, selecting from a wide list of representatives offered by news media designated. It is necessary to underline the fact that the contact and productive cooperation of the court and the media are fulfilled through media coordinator; in such cases the Supreme Court usually designates the media coordinator jurisdiction. It means that in case the media coordinator is not entitled for the particular proceedings, he can be prohibited from the proceeding process.
‘Trying new technologies in the judicial process, questioning how things are done, and taking innovative approaches are all good things. But we must balance them with some thought about whether it is the right thing to do in the circumstances.’ – David Canton, a Business Lawyer, stated in order to support the idea of media coordinator introduction in the system of justice. The press is to be protected from freedom discrimination, as well as the court and all people involved into the hearings have the right to act in accordance with their social freedoms, deserving for fair trials without the pressure on the part of the society. The role of media coordinator is aimed at ensuring the court proceedings to be conducted in the most dignified manner preserving justice to all the members of the hearing. It should be noted that the coordinator is encouraged to cooperate with local court for the purpose of court’s expectations determination, taking into account the repercussions and decorum in case of media representatives fail to comply with the expectations.
The person being appointed as media coordinator, bear a great responsibility for his duties; he is to provide all personal information, name, address, etc., to the court clerk, presiding judge and jurisdiction media representatives. In accordance with the rule, this person is to identify whether the organization is referred to the educational television or news media; this aspect is performed in order to exercise the Court Operating Rule privileges. It is important to stress that the media coordinator presents a complete list of all jurisdiction media representatives to the proceeding members. Additional duties of the media coordinator are considered to be the following:
- The meeting organization with the media representatives and alternate media coordinators in order to review their understanding of guidelines and Court Operating Rule #16;
- The media coordinator is to discuss the location of microphones and camera, lighting adequacy and other logistical arrangements with local court officials and media representatives.
- He is to arrange the equipment maintenance and acquisition for the purpose of pooling service facilitation.
The analysis of the media coordinator’s duties and rules helps to understand his role in the system of court and media contradiction. It should be noted that the media coordinator prevents accidental rule violations which prohibit demonstrating jurors through his appropriate camera placing. The court Operating Rule #16 and all the procedures set in it are to be carefully followed by the court media coordinator in order to handle media requests. One of the principle responsibilities of the media coordinator in the court is considered to be the designation of the media representatives and making pooling arrangements. Besides, in case of media request for the hearing, the media coordinator is to contact the judge being responsible for it, who can offer the proceeding equipment demonstration, and to coordinate equipment location. Sometimes the media coordinator does not schedule the demonstration of the equipment; so, the court has the right to prohibit the media coverage. The media coordinator is a kind of link between the court and the media; he is to identify the unobtrusiveness of the media equipment, such as still cameras, television and digital cameras, as well as audio equipment. The principle task of the media coordinator is a productive work with the court for the purpose of protecting the freedom of the press and rights of people. (Your Missouri Courts, 2009)
The analysis of court media coordinator obligations results in the following benefits provided for court-media cooperation:
- Single broadcasting channel of the court proceedings – so, only interested people will watch them;
- The organized meeting for journalists;
- Single video camera and operator to be present at the hearings;
- Less pressure produced on the victims.
It is necessary to underline the fact that the introduction of media coordinator is one of the most effective solutions to the problem of media-court conflict, as it was proved by the responsibilities and duties he perform. (Parsons, 2007)
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The solution to Problem: ‘Voir Dire’ and Court Hearings Privacy
The system of justice has additional methods of problem solution which will not discriminate against the press freedom. ‘Voir Dire’ is considered to be the process of trial closing and jurors’ questioning. This method is an effective one, as the jurors inform directly as to possible potential prejudices. This method can allow avoiding mistakable opinion of the public through the recognition of misinformation threats. It is necessary to underline the fact that this process gives an opportunity for the press having access to the hearing, but this access is very limited and protect the proceeding from active participation of the press in verdict passing. It should be noted that this process is a king of truth guarantee; it is aimed at the expression of complete truth. The questioning of jurors gives an opportunity to avoid prejudices through the detail information given to the press by the court representatives.
The system of justice has the right to keep some hearings in privacy to the media, in accordance with the law of personal information confidentiality and protection of investigation process details. In such cases the court system acts in accordance with its regulations providing no limitations and discriminations for the freedom of the press. The media representatives are usually informed in the brief form about the proceeding aspects and are kept aside from the detail data about the defendant’s background and crime motives. It should be stressed that this helps to avoid pressure on the part of public opinion and false considerations as to the crime verdict, leading to the fair trial and privacy protection. (Bergman and Berman-Barrett, 2008)
Media interference with the court proceedings is considered to be lawful aspect in the life of democratic country, as it informs the publicity about the details of the criminal sphere. Nevertheless, this problem touches the limitation of personal rights and can lead to the unfair trial verdict. The solutions highlighted managed to disclose the effective methods of court-media conflict avoiding.
The research paper was based on the investigation of the system of justice sphere in its interference with media activities. The analysis demonstrated the central problem concerning legal aspects of the country that are the Bill of Human Rights and the law of free press limitations. The paper managed to show effective solutions to problem helping to avoid sharp contradictions; the introduction of court media coordinator in every local court will give an opportunity to control every step of media interference without limitations of its rights. Besides, the process of ‘vior dire’ and hearings privacy will inform the publicity as to the criminal case without affecting the defendant’s verdict in the court.
To change the conflict situation between the court and media and not discriminate against the rights of democratic society, the government is to work out measures and ways out of existing problem resulting in threats to legal state regulations.
Bergman, P. and Berman-Barrett, S. (2008). Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case. Nolo.
Parsons, W. Media Guidelines. Media Procedures for Special Interest. 2007. Web.
Your Missouri Courts. (2009). What are the media coordinator’s responsibilities? Web.