Daniel Nemukuyu in Kempton Park, RSA
Journalists in the Sadc region must play their watchdog role over judges and criticise court decisions whenever necessary to ensure they do not depart from their constitutional mandate, a Botswana High Court judge has said.
Botswana High Court’s Justice Key Dingake said the media, being the Fourth Estate of the realm, should not hesitate to criticise the judiciary when it passes decisions that are in breach of the people’s rights.
He said this while addressing senior journalists, editors and parliamentarians in a keynote speech to open the Sadc Parliamentary Forum workshop on sexual and reproductive health rights here yesterday.
Justice Dingake is interim co-chair of the newly established Regional Think Tank on HIV, Health and Social Justice in Southern and Eastern Africa.
He said judges were not untouchables and that journalists are free to criticise them when they passed controversial judgments.
“Do not hesitate to criticise the judges if they betray their constitutional oath of office,” said Justice Dingake. “We are not infallible, neither are we untouchable angels.
“A critical appraisal of our judgments is necessitated by the fact that the law is fraught with illusion; the illusion that law and justice mean the same thing,” he said.
“What I can say and say unapologetically is that the ultimate objective of law must be the welfare of the people.”
Justice Dingake said while the media was free to keep an eye over the judges, accuracy, objectivity and truthfulness remained key to the profession.
“You, members of the Fourth Estate, need to keep watch over us — those engaged directly in the enterprise of law — that we keep our faith in honouring the morality of our constitutions, whose central theme is equality and evidence-based reporting, and reduce undue sensationalisation and distortion, in the context of the theme of this conference,” he said.
Justice Dingake said the media should properly cover sexual reproductive health rights to educate and inform the public of their rights.
He said the media should continue reminding states of their obligations to respect human rights.
The two-day workshop is being attended by representatives from the 14 Sadc member states.