The role of judicial power in promotion and maintenance of the rule of law - this was the theme of the International Judicial Conference which was organized on July 2 – 3 by the US Embassy in cooperation with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Latvia and the Ministry of Justice.

Along with the US Professors Geoffrey Hazard and Ronald D. Rotunda, the panel discussion on the relations of judiciary and mass media were attended by the reporter Inta Lapse and the Head of the Supreme Court Administration Anita Kehre.

The specialists from USA stressed that in America the courts are the branch of power most transparent to the public. The court trials are maximally open proceedings, and the courts provide explanations to the public on their rulings. The judges have to be ready to hear criticism, as well, and the action after incorrect or unfair information by journalists is to speak about and explain their opinion even more, Professor Hazard shared the experience. “In America, mass media are defended even if they have been rather unfair. Thus, the interests of further generations are protected,” Professor said.

In Latvia during the last five years, from the point of view of freedom of the press and expression, the work has become easier for the journalists, the attitude of the courts towards the media has changed considerably, and rare is a judge refusing to speak with the media, reporter I. Lase admitted. However, at the present moment, the journalists do not have enough chances to follow the court proceedings regularly and analyze them as the technologic facilities do not ensure it. The second problem – there are no court judgments and operative summary of the court practice what gives the journalists no chance to compare and make conclusions, admitted the journalist.

On the other hand, A. Kehre who prior to the position of the Head of the Supreme Court Administration worked as an editor for a long time suggested that the judicial power assists the Latvian journalists to transit from news reports to the investigative journalism, as that would increase trust not only in media, but also in the courts. At present, it is not sufficient just to ensure accessibility of information and publishing of rulings, reprimands to the media for pursuing sensations are not always grounded, as well. The journalists and society demands much more – the understanding why one or another one regulation has been passed. The Latvian media have not exhausted yet the credit of trust received in the 90s therefore its authority is much higher than that of the media in America. It has to be taken into account also by the judicial power, and it is in its interests to assist the journalism in Latvia to become more analytical and qualitative, A. Kehre admitted.

More than 200 judges and representatives of other professions of the judiciary, law specialists, academic staff and state officials from seven different countries attended the international judicial conference and participated in discussions on independence of judiciary, ethics and transparency, relations with the mass media and legislative power, and other issues.

The conference was also attended by foreign experts – the US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, US Academicians Geoffrey Hazard and Ronald Rotunda, as well as high-level representatives from Moldova, Georgia, Romania, Estonia and Lithuania.

Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: 7020396, 28652211