A Writ of Mandamus Must Be Sought by Civil Society Activist Compel All Media Film, Live stream or Otherwise Make Audio-Visual Records of The TRRC Proceedings:
Alagi Yorro Jallow
The Gambia Radio and Television Services, the EYE Africa Online television, Mamos TV Channel and all online Gambian media had an integral part in making, in which they implicate public service that has been praised as an enduring contribution to national knowledge and information. These television services and online media services influence political systems, arguing that their blanket coverage had expanded television journalism into areas once shielded from general view. These networks received positive media coverage for providing public access to proceedings such as the Janneh Commission of Inquiry hearings, the National Assembly adjournment debates proceedings, while everyday programming has been credited with providing the public with an intimate knowledge of the Gambia’s political, judicial and legislative proceedings to the people. The ability of GRTS and all other Gambian private online media providing national news and sharing of public knowledge, their civic duty, services has been vital to providing information about politics to Gambian viewers.
All Gambian media must have equal access to the Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriation Commission hearings and testimonies. The Gambia Radio and Television Services shall play a principal role in the production and dissemination of the final products, including the intellectual property of the TRRC media rights. GRTS is the national broadcaster and should be the sole repository of government connected audio and visual productions.
Therefore, a writ of mandamus must be sought by civil society groups or activists through a public interest petition from the Supreme Court and lower courts to compel the TRRC to film, live stream or otherwise make video records of the TRRC hearings of matters of human rights and national importance that impact the public at large in national reconciliation, healing and justice. This is in furtherance of the principle of right to receive information and to advance the principle of open courts and access to justice, as protected under provisions the TRRC Act and that of the Gambian Constitution.
This would be in furtherance of the principle that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done, as well as to empower and provide access to citizens who cannot personally come to attend commission proceedings due to social, economic, or physical health or disability constraints, even though the decision of the commission will impact them. The provision of live streaming or video recording would enable Gambians both in the country and in Diaspora to have firsthand information of case proceedings on issues of constitutional importance that affect them.
This could greatly facilitate the understanding of governance and functioning of democracy. There is no rational reason as to why proceedings of great public importance on human rights and public law should not be broadcast live. Live streaming of cases of national importance would also inspire public confidence in the judiciary and bring transparency and accountability in the administration of justice. Further, this would avoid the spread of misinformation, conscious disinformation, and misunderstanding of the role of the Courts and commissions in these matters. Perhaps, in the countervailing interests of privacy – as in family law cases – or in the interests of witness testimonies in criminal matters, such live streaming or video records could be avoided.
Live streaming and/or recording of proceedings of matters of national importance will be of immense archival value, as well as a significant contribution to the educational role of the judiciary. The Apex Courts and judicial hearings of many common law countries and international forums, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, have all devised differing means for recording, broadcasting, or live streaming their proceedings for the public. The live streaming of such proceedings would be in consonance with the principle of open court established under and in furtherance of the fundamental right of access to justice for all citizenry.
Public confidence in the administration of justice is of such great significance that there can be no two opinions on the broad proposition that, in discharging their functions as judicial hearing sessions, commissions must generally hear cases in the open and must permit the public admission to the commission room. Pending the availability of the infrastructure for live streaming, issue a writ of mandamus or direction directing the Attorney-General and Justice Minister to record the proceedings of the commission in matters of constitutional and national importance that impact the public at large, and to allow the national broadcaster to own broadcasting rights upon which these recordings could be uploaded, would qualify for live streaming until the facility of live streaming is arranged with other private television services. GRTS would be cost-effective and could be put in place to direct and arrange for live streaming of the commission proceedings and to simulcast with other online media.