By Staff Reporter
A senior Zimbabwean journalist employed by Alpha Media Holdings, Desmond Chingarande has written the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) complaining about its newly introduced e-system.
The Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS), is meant to allow for digital handling of court cases.
However, journalists have been finding it difficult to access courts and documents especially at the High Court following its roll out.
In a letter written by his lawyer Dr Innocent Maja of Maja and Associates Legal practitioners, and delivered to JSC on Monday 2 October 2023, Desmond Chingarande said the digital system only limits access to the parties to the dispute and court officials only.
In September, JSC advised its stakeholders that all litigation in superior courts will now be done on the IECMS platform.
To use this, litigants or users need gadgets such as laptops, computers, tablets smartphones, adequate and stable internet connectivity and need to be registered on the IECMS platform and to be trained on how to use the IECMS.
Previously, Chingarande said, this used to be possible because
journalists would just sit in open court and follow proceedings.
But now, accredited journalists are not allowed access to the IECMS system and are also not allowed access to virtual hearings and or trials so that they follow proceedings in order to cover and report about them.
The court reporter argued that in terms of section 69(1) and (2) of the Constitution, every person has the right to a fair, public hearing and trial and a corollary of the right to a public hearing and trial is the ability of the media to cover the proceedings and have access to court documents.
He gave JSC up to Friday 6 October 2023 to respond to his concerns.
“In light of the forgoing, our client has instructed us to implore you to make provision for accredited journalists to open iecms accounts where they would be able to follow court proceedings and request access to filed court documents and alternativley provide accredited journalists with links to the IECMS system so that they are able to follow court proceedings on the system and to request for court documents,” reads part of the letter.
He also suggested that court hearings could be streamed live on accessible streaming sites.
Court hearings, documents and proceedings, Chingarande said, are public unless there are cogent reasons for restricting publicity and public access.
Chingarande argued that he has journalistic privilege to enquire,gather, receive and disseminate information and that his right to carry on and practice his profession as a court journalist, which is guaranteed in section 64 of the Constitution is being violated by the JSC’s digital platform’s failure to allow journalists to access court proceedings and court documents being conducted on the IECMS platform.
The AMH journalist wants JSC to make a provision for accredited journalists to open IECMS accounts, where they would be able to follow court proceedings and request access to filed court documents.
Alternatively, Chingarande wants the JSC to provide accredited
journalists with links to the IECMS platform so that they are able to follow court proceedings on the digital system and to request for court documents.