UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s proposals to ‘lift the veil,’ and open family courts to the media, bring with them a range of issues, as discussed by the Telegraph’s Joshua Rozenberg.
One of which is the question of what defines the category of ‘accredited media’? Will it include online-only publications, for example?
Journalism.co.uk rang the Ministry of Justice to find out what will constitute ‘accredited media’. A spokesperson said it is currently ‘being decided’ and will be announced ‘once rules are finally agreed’. “It is part of the decision making process,” he said.
What’s the time-frame? Journalism.co.uk asked. Along with other parts of the proposal, final rules will be established by April 2009, the ministry spokesperson said.
As Rozenberg commented, this is a significant part of the proposals. Rozenberg wrote:
” … Mr Straw does not seem to have given enough thought to what constitutes the modern media.
“If I decide to write about legal affairs on my own website, am I a freelance journalist who should be allowed access to the courts or a blogger who should not? And who is to decide?
“Mr Straw’s officials pointed out that press seats at criminal trials are allocated by court officials. But those denied such seats can usually attend as members of the public. That option would not be available here.
“Journalism is not a profession, in the sense of an occupation with controlled entry such as law or architecture. Anyone can call himself or herself a journalist. It is therefore essential that the final decision on who may attend the family courts as a journalist is one for the courts themselves, not officials.”
(Hat tip to Jon Slattery, who also flagged up the issues on his blog.)