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SLAJ trains reporters on court reporting

April 20, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Friday, 17 April organized a training workshop for court reporters from the print and electronic media in Freetown on how to report court proceedings.

The training, held at the Harry Yansaneh Hall at SLAJ headquarters on Campbell Street, laid particular emphasis on the ongoing Supreme Court petition of Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana which seeks to restrain Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh from performing the duties of Vice President and for the court to determine the constitutionality or lack of it of the decision of President Ernest Bai Koroma to sack the democratically elected vice president.

Speaking to journalists at the training, SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said the reason for the training was to guide some reporters as to what to do and what not to do when reporting cases in court.

However, he maintained the training had a primary focus of ensuring that reportage of the present matter before the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone was done within laid down guidelines, including giving reporters basic training on how to report the case without being in contempt of court.

He revealed that he too cut his journalistic teeth by reporting from the courts, together with his late colleague Lansana Fofana, that is where most journalists would start their vocation.

“Let me tell you how my late colleague Lansana Fofana went to jail for a court contempt; our editor at that time was caught with an old gun and while the matter was in court he reported on the proceedings but at the end of his report, he gave an opinion which says: ‘it seems the judges have made up their minds to send the editor to jail’. And because of that opinion in the story, he was sent to jail,” explained Lewis in his recount of history.

Facilitator Joseph Egbenda Kapuwa, himself a journalist-cum-barrister, said a journalist might have his opinion on court proceedings but the opinion should not proffer evidence on the matter because it could affect or influence court proceedings.

He said prior to going to court, a reporter should know what he is going to do, and while in court he must listen attentively to both parties – the plaintiff and defendant – and report mainly on the important submissions.

He said if one intends to proffer their opinion on court reportage it must be based on fact and substance which should not affect the proceedings of the matter in court.

He added that when reporting court proceedings, the use of sections in the Constitution or Acts and legal terms are not of much importance because members of the public who listen to the radio and read newspapers do not know about such Acts, adding that emphasis should rather be placed on the importance of the matter in court.

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