Editorial: Some bureaucratic court restrictions need to be relaxed

The justice sector has some of the most media-friendly departments in government, beginning with the Ministry of Justice, the prosecution and the investigative arms.

But that goodwill ends at the footsteps of the courtrooms, especially taking photos or filming in courtrooms; it all depends on the whim of the individual judges and that goes against the tenets of access to information.

Some judges insist on applying for permission to take photos three days prior and one wonders the logic behind that caveat - it is just an entrenchment of bureaucracy.

This week, a very important figure related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi appeared in court, but there were no images of the elusive subject.

Agnes Ntamabyariro, a former Minister of Justice before and during the Genocide, was one of the few female cabinet members then. She is serving two life sentences for Genocide crimes, therefore her presence in court to appeal her sentence was a matter of public interest.

A case like Ntamabyariro’s should be subject to unfettered access because it is a matter of national interest. Taking her photo should not be put in the same category of what is referred to by our learned friends as Sub Judice (not discussing matters before the court).

When Access to Information law was passed, it was exactly to address matters such as the above and prevent public officials from getting entangled in unnecessary protocol and restrictions.

This issue of getting images in court should be streamlined and not depend on individual judges. That is really not too much to ask from a sector that has otherwise been a good travel mate to the media up to now.

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