High Court Justice Lungten Dubgyur talks to the participants

Judiciary and media shared expectations from each other

Judiciary and media shared their expectations regarding judgment interpretation, need for assigned representatives from both sides and disclosure of source, among others.

Acting Chief Justice of High Court, Justice Sangay Khandu, said that if the judiciary is to build trust and confidence, media is important as the perception and credibility of judiciary relies on media’s portrayal of the judiciary.

He said reporters should understand and know the content of the judgment thoroughly and not attempt at interpreting the judgment in a way the reporter thinks is right.

“Once the judgment is passed it becomes a public document, which can be used as an evidence to disprove your interpretations and prove our interpretation,” he said.

The Acting Chief Justice urged the participants to refrain from listening to the parties involved regarding the interpretation of the judgment but to refer to the judgment and the press release.

“You must not be judgmental,” he added.

Justice Sangay Khandu said: “The most dangerous thing is to have preconceived notions of justice before the case is finished.”

He urged the participants to be careful when people approach media with issues because they have only their version of story.

“Do not incite people. This is one of the expectations we have of the media,” he said.

Editor in chief of The Bhutanese, Tenzing Lamsang, said there are already voices restricting the media from reporting when the appeal is going on.

“If a reporter can come up with strong evidence and justifications while the case is in progress, I think that it is better to publish before the verdict comes out rather than wait,” he said.

He said the basis of judiciary is its credibility, so the burden of proof while reporting on critical news either on the judge or the judiciary is much higher. “If you are going to point finger at the judiciary, you better be very sure, surer than when you point a finger at a politician.”

He added that for reporters to do their jobs properly, access to verdicts and judges is important, and emphasised the judiciary to appoint a legal person to explain complicated judgments if the judge is unavailable.

Chief Justice expressed the need to have one reporter on the judicial matters. “If you do this, we are confident you will understand the legal terminologies.”

He said reporters should know common legal principles, doctrines and concepts while reporting on judicial matters.

On revealing sources, Tenzing Lamsang requested the judiciary to present a written court order on disclosure of sources only after verifying the information to be wrong.

“Otherwise what is the point of revealing sources?” he asked.

Although the language of the court is Dzongkha, Tenzing Lamsang requested judiciary to provide verdicts in Dzongkha as well as English or to provide English summary of the Dzongkha verdict so that the meaning is not altered while translating.

He said that in Bhutan people feel uneasy to go to court because of the intimidating atmosphere. “This has hampered the image of the judiciary over a period of time.”

Justice Lungten Dubgyur said that the courtroom setting is not to create intimidating atmosphere but for reverence to lawful authority. “Reverence brings unity and lawful command.”

Karma Cheki and  Rinchen Zangmo

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