Court reporters get a handy guide

By Wendy Mangale

The Kenya Editors’ Guild has added to its arsenal of quality journalism manuals a guide to court reporting in Kenya. Launched last month, the 103-page is intended to help journalists report court proceedings accurately.

At hand to launch the guidelines on September 15 was the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice William Ouko, who acknowledged the critical role of the media, saying that the guidelines would go a long way in helping journalists play their cardinal role of better informing the public. He cautioned that misreporting court cases had led to hefty penalties and litigation against media houses, hence the need to train and sensitize court reporters. “To drive this Initiative,” he said, “the Judiciary, through the Judicial Training Institute, is ready to partner with KEG.”

Justice Ouko acknowledged what he referred to as the media’s critical watchdog role, which includes exposing unfairness in the judicial system and shining the spotlight on the action of judges, lawyers and prosecutors to ensure justice for victims. He noted, however, that the media had its own challenges such as unfamiliarity with the principles of court proceedings and the legal jargon used in courts.

“Despite the importance of court house reporting,” he said, “judges, lawyers and members of the public often complain about the reporting that is inaccurate, biased or short on context. To some, “this is because those sent by media houses to do stories about cases have little or no training about the complexities of the justice system, processes of the court and its terminology.”

To address this, he recommended that court reporters acquaint themselves with the court system language and procedures to effectively carry out their duties. “It is not a simple ‘pen’ and ‘pad’ affair,” he said.

KEG’s Vice Chairman welcomed the guidelines as a useful tool to help journalists navigate the court corridors, while at the same time noting that for years stories from court had made captivating headlines that demanded reporting that was accurate and free from bias.

The Chairman of the Media Council of Kenya, Mr. Maina Muiruri, said the guidelines had come at a crucial time in Kenya when the media was independent.