About 25 journalists from both the print and electronic media on Wednesday concluded training on reporting the Charles Taylor trial, which is presently going on in The Hague in Netherlands.
Mohamed Suma, Programme Director of the Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme Group (SLCMP), in addressing media practitioners said that the training “aims to provide journalist with a better understanding of the Taylor trial proceedings, including the purpose of the trial, the role of the prosecution and defence and the right of the accused to a fair trial.”
Mr Suma stated that after the three-day interactive training session, journalists will have a wider and better perspective on reporting the Taylor trial and also to report any other international tribunals.
Mohamed Bangura, trial attorney of the special court, provided the prosecutor’s perspective on the Taylor trial, noting that the training comes at the right time, taking into consideration the commencement of the trial in The Hague. Mr Bangura said that the BBC World Service Trust has done a good job by training reporters and also sending them to The Hague, but added that such training should not be limited to the BBC trust.
“Other institutions should come on board and engage media practitioners so that they will disseminate the message about the trial in The Hague,” he said.
Mr Bangura stressed the importance of journalists’ understanding of the procedures, and said they (journalists) need to understand the legal terms used during the course of trials.
Without legal knowledge, he explained, the reporter will not report accurately.
Giving legal implications of the trials, the attorney spoke about the strategies of gathering evidence and putting witnesses together, individual criminal responsibility and command responsibilities. He explained that even if the individual is not present when the crimes are committed, that individuals can still be prosecuted if he was aware of the crimes committed by his subordinate or if he failed to punish his subordinate after committing a crime.
Speaking about the defence office, Principal Defender Elizabeth Nahamya said that the defence office was created by rules of the court, whereas the Office of the Prosecution (OTP) was created by the statute of the court – a big difference between the two offices.
She stressed that the defence office’s role is to ensure the rights of the accused are protected by all and that they get a free and fair trial and that they also provide a list of lawyers among which the accused have a right to choose.
By Betty Milton