Terengganu caning episode needs fair reporting

Opinion  |  Bob Teoh
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The controversial caning by the Terengganu Syariah High Court of two unnamed women needs to comply with rules and ethics of fair and accurate reporting in the interest of our “open” justice system.

I selected 16 news reports, both local and foreign at random. They all complied with the court’s decision not to name the two women. Other than that, I found that most of them ignored the basic rules of fair and accurate reporting, particularly for court reporting.

Most alarming was that only one (a Bernama report carried by Utusan Malaysia) actually gave the charge under which the two women were accused of. The others merely alluded to it. Even then, the charge was not explained adequately for readers to follow the news framing intelligently.

All that was reported was that they were guilty of deviant behaviour contrary to Islam.

I found only one narrative useful to understanding the issue at hand. This was written by two lawyers entitled 'Let the civil courts decide on lesbian sex'.

We practise “open justice” in Malaysia of which fair and accurate reporting of open court proceedings is cardinal. I wrote about this previously.

“Open justice is a hallmark of the rule of law. It is an essential requisite of the criminal justice system that it should be administered in public and subject to public scrutiny. The media play a vital role in representing the public and reflecting the public interest.”

This is a quote from the introduction of an official guide for judges and the media “Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts April 2015 (Revised May 2016” by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales....

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