News24

Media, judiciary need each other

2010-02-13 22:21

Cape Town - The media and the judiciary were two of the most vital pillars supporting South Africa's constitutional democracy, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said in Cape Town on Saturday night.

He was addressing a SA National Editor's Forum dinner.

"They depend on each other. Indeed without the other, each would be unable to perform its crucial function in our constitutional democracy," he said.

The media on the one hand needed the protection of an independent judiciary.

The media also benefited from the principle of access to information that was enshrined in the constitution and given life by the rulings of the courts.

"Without a strong and vigilant judiciary, dark curtains might quickly be drawn over crucial sources of information, and the media's ability to report freely would be subjected to the whim of the moment," the Chief Justice said.

On the other hand, the judiciary needed the media to report and explain judgments.

Accountable

"We need the media to keep South Africans informed of their constitutional rights and the processes by which they can vindicate them.

"We need the media to help the public to hold us accountable for our judgements and jurisprudence and for the operation of the courts.

"We also need the media to inform the public about our work, so that they can have confidence in their judicial system.

"But importantly, we in the judiciary need the media to treat us with respect and through responsible and honest reporting, to offer us the protection and support necessary to safe guard our independence."

Justice Ngcobo said he believed there should be a dialogue between the judiciary and the media.

"Like all dialogues, there will be joyous moments and breakthroughs of understanding.

"At other times, the dialogue will be fraught with tensions. This is how it should be and must be."

The chief Justice said what was essential, however, was that both sides - the media and judiciary - should respect each other and ensure that frank dialogue never devolved into acrimonious disputes.

"The fate of our young constitutional democracy might well depend on it," he said.