Friday, April 28, 2006

Using Information Contained in Court Documents Filed

Today there seems to be a practice of broadcasting information about the content of court documents. Filing of court documents is not an indication that the case being presented will result in a decision for the prosecution. Many cases are brought forth when enough information is available to indicate an investigation is needed. Sometimes this requires a formal court process to make a decision on the guilty or innocence of the defendant (s). There have been cases where it appears that information is being used to discredit or affect the integrity or reputation of government or private officials. This practice results in trying the person within the broadcast community and therefore results in a public opinion. This occurs even before a final decision is made within the court system. This method is wrong where it does not present both sides of the issue. There also appears to be cases where people are up for re-election and a court case would help their chances of re-election.

Content of court documents are only pieces of paper presented to bring forth a case for suspected crimes and does not necessarily provide validated information. Media organizations must be careful to not use information within court documents that could impede a fair and just trial, which is required by our constitution. Many cases are brought forth based on testimony of individuals and sometimes documents, which must be validated.

All media organizations have the right to cover any news story that has an impact locally or nationally. However, this right should not be abused by the practices of giving an impression that the information in court documents has already been validated to be true. The media must qualify the information being presented, and some do that the information must be validated through the court proceedings. It is up to the court and/or jury to determine the validity of the documents filed to substantiate cases filed. Yet when a case is filed, especially a high profile case, there is a practice of using the content of documents filed to present the information to the public.


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