Leave it to a neutral bodyLive TV coverage of a court ruling is a double-edged sword. Proponents claim it broadens the public right to information, raises the credibility of a ruling and helps to lower crimes. Critics argue it goes against the presumption of innocence, or the defendant’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and undermines the defendant’s rights to defense and dignity.
Governments differ on the view. The United States allows it, while Germany, France and Japan do not. The Supreme Court, after a meeting among chief justices, decided to allow live TV coverage of the sentencing sessions of two lower courts. It would continue to bar complete media coverage of trials that can popularize court sessions.
The top court since March 2013 has allowed online streaming of the final or appeals trial of a socially sensitive case. But photo sessions can be possible upon the judge’s consent before the trial begins in lower courts. It is how the scene of the first court hearing on former President Park Geun-hye was captured.
The rule was further eased to public and media accessibility to the entire session. Broadcasting is permitted if the bench believes public interests are more important than the defendant’s opinion. The rush in easing the regulation suggests the first case could be made with the trials of Park, Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, and Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil in their bribery and corruption cases.
The top court has given the judge of the lower court the authority to limit the broadcasting scope and time if deemed necessary to protect the defendants. Still, the highest court has not deliberated hard enough on whether it is just to leave decisions determining the rights of a defendant on a single judge. The judiciary should consider forming a neutral committee of prosecutors, lawyers, media specialists, and civilians to discuss stricter rules on the broadcasting of court sessions.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 30