Guidelines for Compatibility of Media and the Judiciary Proposed for South Asian Countries
The importance of the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression while making and implementing the law on contempt of court, was the subject of intense debate during a three-day seminar on Media and Judicial Independence in South Asia held in Manesar, Haryana, India, earlier this month.
The meeting that was held from 2 to 4 December 2004 ended with the recommendation of a series of strict measures to promote harmonious coexistence of the media and the judiciary in this respect.
The seminar, the first of its kind in this field in the subregion, provided an opportunity for journalists, judges, advocates and other stakeholders to discuss the critical issues related to this topic with a view to striking a balance between the demands of investigative journalism and the dignity of the judiciary.
The recommendations are embodied in the newly issued Manesar Declaration which may serve as practical guidelines for the conduct of the media and the judiciary and as a beacon for the continued introspection required in the shaping of future legislative and judicial approaches in relation to contempt of court, together with the role of the media in this regard.
Delegates to this singular event included senior-level journalists and editors from media houses, organizations and institutions such as the Sunday Times and the Ravaya, Sri Lanka, The Daily Star, Bangladesh, The Friday Times, Pakistan, The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India, The Tribune, Hindustan Times, Press Council of India, All India Radio, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, National Media Centre, and the Technical School of Communication, India as well as the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The legal profession was also ably represented by retired Justices of the Courts and senior advocates from the participating countries, and also legal and civil society organizations including the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, Pakistan, and the Centre for Policy Initiatives, Sri Lanka.
Barrister-at-law and specialist in Indian and British Media Law, Venkat Iyer of the University of Ulster, Ireland, facilitated the meeting. The Seminar was organized by Asian Media Information & Communication Centre of India (AMIC-India) in association with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and UNESCO.