NMA: Open Justice Must Be Maintained

Press coverage must not be formally or informally curtailed by efforts to address problems created by social media, the News Media Association has said.

The Attorney General’s Office’s response to its call for evidence on the impact of social media on criminal trials has revealed that social media doesn’t currently pose a serious threat to the criminal justice system.

Although the risk to criminal justice from social media was “relatively minor,” the AGO said it was launching new ‘Contempt of Court’ guidance to promote the safe use of social media, and the Judicial Office had begun work to produce new, comprehensive guidance on contempt for jurors. 

The News Media Association said: “The AGO’s response correctly focusses upon the role of the social media companies, jury guidance and public education.  However, it remains vital that open justice is not curtailed in practice by unjustified judicial requests or orders for takedown of lawful, fair and accurate media reports. We also note the wider reporting issues raised in the run up to the white paper on online harm.

“It is vital that unnecessary new statutory reporting restrictions are not created or commenced, or anonymity bans extended, especially those which would prevent the lawful reporting of crime and wider matters of legitimate public concern as well as obscure public oversight of the criminal justice system and the courts.

The NMA added: “We trust that the government, AGO and CPS will also closely consult the NMA and other media organisations on these matters, as well as any new guidance and longstanding media proposals for a searchable reporting restrictions database.”

The NMA submitted a response to the consultation and met with the AGO on its call for evidence.