Leidschendam, 24 April 2014- Two journalists and two media organisations have been charged with contempt before the Special Tribunal for
The charges follow an investigation into three events by an amicus curiae, Stéphane Bourgon, who was appointed by the Registrar on the request of the Contempt Judge, David Baragwanath. Following reports by the amicus, Judge Baragwanath concluded that there was prima facie evidence in two of these events that justify proceedings for contempt. The investigation continues in the third.
New TV S.A.L. and Karma Mohamed Tahsin al Khayat are charged with:
· knowingly and wilfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses.
· knowingly and wilfully interfering with the administration of justice by failing to remove from Al Jadeed TV's website and Al Jadeed TV's YouTube channel information on purported confidential witnesses.
Akhbar Beirut S.A.L. and Ibrahim Mohamed Al Amin are charged with:
· knowingly and wilfully interfering with the administration of justice by publishing information on purported confidential witnesses in the Ayyash et al. case.
In his decision the Contempt Judge clarified that publishing purported names of witnesses may amount to interference with the administration of justice, because it reduces the confidence of both actual witnesses and the public, in the ability and the will of the Tribunal to protect its witnesses.
Judge Baragwanath has now recused himself from the case and Judge Nicola Lettieri will hear the case. A new amicus curiae will prosecute the Accused (please see press release 'STL Appoints New Amicus Curiae').
In his decision Judge Baragwanath wrote about the vital principles of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and the proper administration of justice. Judge Baragwanath stressed that the importance of the press "as the eyes, ears and voice of the community is at its highest when confronted with the power of public decision-makers, such as judges". However the decision went on to stress that like judges, and the rest of the community, the media must comply with the law. "Nothing is more fundamental to the rule of law than that there must be no deliberate interference with the administration of justice". This "leaves intact the ability of the press otherwise to comment on the Tribunal's work, including criticising it".
The accused may choose whether to appear at the court in person or by video-link. The initial appearances of the accused are scheduled for 13 May 2014..