Bill Seeking Media Coverage of Court Proceedings Passes Second Reading

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• Budget debate continues
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
A bill seeking to ensure that court proceedings are subjected to open coverage and reportage by print and electronic media yesterday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.

The bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to Provide for Media Coverage of Court Proceedings in Nigeria for the Purpose of Gathering and Disseminating News to the Public and for other Related Matters,” is sponsored by Hon. Daniel Reyeneiju (Delta PDP).

Leading the debate, the lawmaker who is representing Warri Federal Constituency, said the bill would enhance the right of the public to have knowledge of court proceedings.

“It is about justice; it is about fairness. If the courts are there for the people, there is no reason why we say the same people cannot have access to proceedings in the courts through coverage by the media,” Reyeneiju said.

His argument was backed by Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim (Adamawa APC) whose position was that media coverage of court proceedings would reduce the course of justice being perverted.

He wondered why court proceedings are not covered by television, whereas the other arms of government are subjected to full media access.

“There courts are where the common man is expected to get justice. So many things that pervert the course of justice will be stopped if the media are there for coverage,” he said.

“There are cases of unnecessary adjournments, and lawyers moving all manner of applications just to slow down the progress of cases. With the media presence, the public will see clearly when these things are happening in the courts,” Ibrahim added.

Hon. Frederick Agbedi (Bayelsa PDP) supported the bill as one that would open the courts up to public scrutiny and promote transparency in judicial proceedings.
“With full media coverage, the public will also see and agree that indeed, there has been justice done to all parties”, he argued.

Hon. Adeyinka Ajayi (Osun APC) however, opposed the bill on  the grounds that the courts handle very sensitive matters, making the judiciary the most revered arm of government.

Media coverage of court proceedings could subject cases to media trials, Adeyinka cautioned, and added that a judge may also be inclined to pass wrong judgment to appease the public.
Following a voice vote presided over by the Speaker. Yakubu Dogara, the lawmakers passed the bill through second reading.

Meanwhile the lawmakers continued the debate on the general principles of the 2017 N7.3 trillion Appropriation Bill. The debate continues today.