Monday 11 December 2017

Journalists and judges will always cross swords in properly functioning democracy

'Right-to-die' case woman will take food
'Right-to-die' case woman will take food

Susan Denham

As we mark UN World Press Freedom Day this weekend – the 21st year in which we do so – I am mindful of the role of the media in society and of its relationship with the rule of law. In a democracy it is vital that media organisations, in pursuing truth, choose to include the courts in their news-gathering, as it recognises the value of the news which is produced in courts, but also the presence of the media in every court at every level, is vital not only to the rule of law – but to democracy itself.

There is no greater accountability than that provided by the public hearing of disputes in our courts. This would not, and could not, take place if the media did not exist in the free and fully functioning form we in Ireland are used to – but which sometimes may be taken for granted.

For the rule of law to flourish in a democracy there needs to be a general and widespread acceptance of law and of its interpretation by the courts: a confidence in the courts operating independently of any other institution. For this acceptance to prevail, there needs to be an understanding of what actually happens in our courts – what we judges decide upon and, most importantly, why.

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