Worry over media curbs on tribunals

GOVERNMENT proposals to restrict media reporting of industrial tribunals will hamper proper coverage of such cases and would erode the “principle of open justice”, say lawyers for the newspaper industry.

Increased powers to limit the identification of parties would apply to defendant companies as much as plaintiffs.

Lawyers say reduced reporting would discourage members of the public from believing they had reasonable case.

This is contrary to the Government's view, which believes that publicity discourages the public from taking actions.

Santha Rasaiah, barrister and member of the Newspaper Society's parliamentary legal committee, said: “We would prefer no restrictions to reporting at all. If they do introduce restrictions, they should be narrowly confined and not extend beyond covering the complainant, perhaps in relation to sensitive and intimate medical details, and right of appeal for the media.”

Rasaiah's comments refer to the National Guild of Editors, for which her committee lobbies. “We are very concerned. We have already seen use of restricted reporting orders in cases of sexual harassment. These give power to prevent identification of defendants as well as complainants,” she said.

Proposals to postpone reporting until a case is over “would deprive media reports of absolute privilege accorded to court proceedings because the report could not be contemporaneous,” the Guild claims.