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Jakarta Post

Legal activists, journalists slam Supreme Court prohibition on recording court hearings

  • Gemma Holliani Cahya
    Gemma Holliani Cahya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, February 28, 2020   /   03:17 pm
Legal activists, journalists slam Supreme Court prohibition on recording court hearings Supreme Court building in Central Jakarta. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court/-)

Human rights activists and press organizations have lambasted the Supreme Court’s new regulation that prohibits the taking of photographs or making sound and video recordings in courtrooms without proper permits, saying the provision will only benefit the judicial mafia and restrict court transparency.

The prohibition is included in a circular letter issued by the Supreme Court about courtroom rules of conduct. The circular was signed by the Supreme Court’s director general of general courts Prim Haryadi on Feb. 7.

“Taking photos, recording audio or video [during a hearing] must be approved first by the head of a local court,” as stated in the circular.

Prior to the circular, Indonesia was among the few countries that allowed journalists and court observers to take pictures as well as audio and video recording of ongoing court procedures.

Ukraine has allowed videotaping of court sessions without obtaining permits from the judge hearing the case, with several limitations, since 2014. The Australian High Court has also allowed video recording of court proceedings since 2013.

On the other hand, many other countries have strict prohibitions. The United States, for example, prohibits electronic media coverage of criminal and civil cases under a federal rule.

The Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) condemned the Supreme Court’s provision on recording court proceedings, demanding it be removed from courtroom rules of conduct.

“Such a regulation will boost the operation of the judicial mafia often found [in courts],” the foundation said in a statement on Thursday.

Read also: Reforms make Supreme Court more productive

The YLBHI went on to say that the proper documentation and recording of trials had allowed it to gather evidence about what occurred in trials, which assisted it in preventing judges and prosecutors from misquoting witness testimony.

“Recording of a trial also reminds judges and relevant parties that they are being watched. At least they will think twice before committing improper acts or violating the law, because there will be evidence from the recording,” YLBHI said.

Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) executive director Anggara said the regulation would affect lawyers who usually used documentation of hearings to build their case.

“In general, such a ban will have a serious impact on people’s access to justice and reduce information disclosure, which are guaranteed by law,” Anggara said in a separate statement on Thursday.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Jakarta also lambasted the provision. “It’s about court transparency. We will object if we are banned from recording court proceedings,” chairman Asnil Bambani Amri said, as quoted by kompas.com.

Supreme Court spokesperson Abdullah defended the circular, saying it was designed to ensure court hearings proceeded smoothly and without disruption. Court observers and journalists who want to record a court hearing will be allowed with the permission of the head of a local court.

“If we don’t prohibit recordings, we can’t differentiate between who are journalists and who are simply attendees at court,” Abdullah said, as quoted by tempo.co. (hol)