The Association of Court Reporters, AIS, would like to express its dissatisfaction with the Decision contained in “The Regulations on accessing information controlled by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, adopted at the General Session. The AIS considers this Decision to be inappropriate for several reasons – the most important of which is that if it is implemented the Decision will deprive the general public of information about court proceedings.
We would like to remind you that the AIS has for a considerable period of time been appealing to the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina to follow the practice of the Hague Tribunal and allow media to have access to more photographs from courtrooms. On several occasions public assurances have been given that the media will be provided with more photographs, showing unprotected witnesses, judges and prosecutors. However, these assurances have not yet been fulfilled; on the contrary, they are completely undermined by this Decision.
Journalists reporting from war-crimes and organized-crime trials conducted before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina consider that the current practices pertaining to sharing photographs should be improved. The number of shared photographs should certainly not be reduced. The fact that we receive only indictees’ photos taken at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of trials deprives the public of information from the courtrooms, as these photographs offer only a very limited perspective. We still do not receive photographs of other participants in trials.
Significantly, the fact that photographs of indictees are the only photographs published in the media can in certain circumstances be used as an argument by Defence teams. Defence lawyers can claim that repeatedly publishing photos of the indictees develops prejudices against some people even before their guilt has been proved. We have already drawn attention to this problem and received support from judges.
We can easily provide you with examples of how the selective publishing of photographs, which is taking place now, undermines objective reporting. We continue to receive group photos of all indictees at a trial, even though only one of them may have pleaded guilty, for example. In addition, we regularly receive photographs of indictees dressed in summer clothes, even though the reporting period is the the middle of winter.
We are extremely concerned that the new Decision may mean that we will no longer receive video recordings from all hearings, but only recordings made at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of trials. This would directly and negatively affect our capacity to report the work of the Court in an efficient way.
We respectfully request that you reconsider your Decision. It is manifestly in the interest of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina that its proceedings are transparent and open to the public, and this can only be ensured by providing appropriate access to the media.
We are formally asking you to convey our disapproval of the Regulations to the Court authorities. We are convinced that this Decision will make it harder for you to garner public support for the Court and disseminate information about the important work being done by this institution.
Judges of the Court have stressed again and again that “justice must be transparent”. This is a fundamental and indispensable pillar of an open society – and this Decision would lead to the very opposite situation, where transparency in the administration of justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina is actually reduced.
The Association of Reporters from the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (consisting of representatives of print and electronic media).
Sarajevo, October 23, 2009