Emmanuel Archibong, a chief magistrate in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on February 21, 2017 instructed that journalists must first apply for and obtain permission before they can cover proceedings in his court.
Gabriel Ayim, the police prosecutor, had drawn the judge’s attention to the presence of journalists in the court taking notes of proceeding during the trial of three men arrested and charged for unlawful protest. He informed the judge that he was not comfortable with the journalists taking notes of proceedings.
Gabriel said: “My Lord I am concerned that journalists are taking notes in this court, I will be uncomfortable to see the cases I am handling being reported on the pages of newspapers.”
“I don’t know who granted them the permission to take notes of the court proceedings?”
Gabriel had initially personally ordered the reporters to stop taking notes, an instruction which they refused to heed.
The judge, following the prosecutor’s complaint asked Premium Times, New Nigerian newspaper and the Inspiration 105.9 FM reporters to stand up.
He said that the “ethics of the court” demand that the reporters should first inform the court before they could cover its proceedings.”
“Even a visitor to someone’s house would first inform his host about his coming so that they could prepare for him.
“This thing can only happen here because it is Akwa Ibom State, it can’t happen elsewhere.
“For those of you who have taken notes of the proceedings of this court, when you leave this courtroom please delete them”.
Inibehe Effiong, lawyer to the accused persons, made a futile attempt to persuade the judge to change his mind to no avail.
He said: “My Lord, the doors of the courtroom ought to be thrown wide open not only for journalists but to any interested members of the public,” adding that journalists have a constitutional right to access court proceedings except in situations where the court is protecting minors or in special cases that had to do with security.