On Monday, the internet space in Nigeria came alive with images of sensational music act, Habeeb Okikiola a.k.a Portable (pictured above, courtesy BBC NEWS YORUBA) who was dragged to court by the police on a six-count charge bordering on assault.
A number of journalists who are not too conversant with the judiciary beat found themselves covering the story, more because of the personality involved. Of course, stories on ‘portable’ are usually a good driver of traffic to news platforms in the country.
Reporting on court proceedings is an important part of journalism and it requires a certain level of knowledge and skills. Here are some tips for journalists reporting on courts in Nigeria:
ONE, Know the rules and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the court you will be reporting from. Each court has its own rules, and it is important to understand them to avoid breaching them. For instance, you must keep your phone in a silent mood and keep your camera out of the courtroom. Don’t attempt to audiotape the proceedings, it may get you in trouble right there or thereafter.
TWO, Arrive early: Arrive at the court early to secure a good seat, and to get a sense of the atmosphere and mood in the court. There’s always a struggle between journalists and lawyers in Nigerian courtrooms as the latter believe that regardless of when they arrive at the court, they must always get the choice seats. After all, its the court and they are lawyers. To avoid these needless struggles, arrive early.
THREE, Dress appropriately: Dress professionally and conservatively. Avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing or flashy. Remember that every assignment determines your appearance. Comportment is important here.
FOUR, Be respectful: Respect the court and the proceedings. Avoid any behavior that could be seen as disruptive or disrespectful, such as talking loudly or using your phone during proceedings.
FIVE, Understand the terminology: Familiarize yourself with legal jargon, procedures and protocols of the court. This will enable you to understand what is happening in court and to report it accurately. Never assume you understand what you dont understand. Ask for help, when you need it. Don’t misrepresent the court in your reports! Odikwa-Risky o
SIX, Take accurate notes: Take accurate and detailed notes of the proceedings. This will help you to report on the case more accurately.
SEVEN, Verify information: Verify information and facts from different sources. Do not rely solely on what the lawyers or judges say. Ask your colleagues, ask the court clerks.
EIGHT, Protect sources: Protect your sources, especially if they are witnesses or parties to the case. Do not disclose their identities without their permission.
NINE, Be objective: Be objective in your reporting. Avoid taking sides or being biased towards any party in the case.
TEN, Be mindful of libel laws: Be mindful of Nigeria’s libel laws when reporting on court cases. Make sure you have evidence to back up any claims you make in your reporting..