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Forging a relationship of trust between courts and media

What sort of relationship is to be forged between the media and the judiciary that could safeguard both the principle of freedom of information and the indispensable respect for the privacy of individuals involved in proceedings? That was the question on the mind of Krzysztof Strzelczyk, President of Poland's National Council of the Judiciary, at the 2nd European Conference of Judges.

Interview, 25.04.2005

Question: Mr Strzelczyk, the Krakow Conference is focusing on the theme of "Justice and the media". Why was that theme chosen?

Krzysztof Strzelczyk: Publicity of justice is one of the principles of democracy in any country, and it could not be achieved without the involvement of the media. This matter is regulated in differing ways in our different countries. On the one hand we have to ensure media access to judicial life and on the other hand, given the sometimes personal nature of information disclosed, we have to guarantee protection of the privacy of parties to proceedings. It is vital that media attendance at hearings has no influence on court decisions nor on the conduct of the parties and witnesses. For that to happen, journalists must have knowledge and expertise where the law and judicial institutions are concerned.

At present there is talk of a certain distrust on the part of some judges with regard to journalists, and in a number of countries, including my own - Poland, judge-journalist relations are running into certain difficulties. I think that it is indispensable to draw up a model for cooperation between journalists and courts. That is a priority objective of the Krakow conference.

Question: How do you think the freedom of information and the necessary respect for the privacy of individuals involved in proceedings can be reconciled?

Krzysztof Strzelczyk: I have said that it is vital to reconcile freedom of expression and information and respect for the individual. The media play a significant role in society but they should not go beyond certain limits as regards respect for human dignity and the rights of parties to proceedings. These constraints arise under article 10 paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The right of individuals to respect for their private life must be upheld unless it is in the public interest to reveal such information.

Question: How will the conclusions of the Krakow Conference be followed up?

Krzysztof Strzelczyk: The conference participants will be able to present the legal systems in force in their country where court-media relations are concerned. The analysis of national regulations and practices should provide a basis for implementing solutions that could guarantee a balance between respect for the rights of individuals involved in judicial proceedings, respect for judges' ethics and media access to information. The conference will be attended by both judges and media representatives, which should ensure a fair balance in the proposals put forward. The Consultative Council of European Judges will take account of the viewpoints expressed at the conference when drafting the opinion to be submitted to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers later this year.