Journalist takes Judicial Services Commission to task over opaque system

Moses Ziyambi

Masvingo—Desmond Chingarande, a senior court reporter with Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), has written to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) protesting the exclusion of journalists from the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) platform.

The IECMS is a web-based management system that automates and tracks court cases from initial filing to appeal and disposition.

The first phase covering the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and the commercial division of the High Court was launched in May 2023.The JSC introduced the second phase covering the Labour Court and the Administrative Court last February, while the third phase catering for the High Court was launched in September.

Through his lawyer, Innocent Maja of Maja and Associates Legal Practitioners, Chingarande has demanded that implementation of the IECMS be amended to give journalists access to the system.

In its current form, the platform allows only court officials and parties to a civil or criminal case to retrieve relevant information.

Journalists are not allowed access to either the platform or virtual hearings made possible by the system, making it difficult to adequately report on the proceedings.

Chingarande argues that this violates his right to access information of public interest as enshrined in Section 62 of the constitution.

He wants JSC to make a provision for accredited journalists to open IECMS accounts so that they too can follow court proceedings and request access to filed court documents.

Alternatively, Chingarande wants the JSC to provide accredited journalists with links to the IECMS platform so that they are able to follow court proceedings on the digital system and to request for court documents.

He insists that the previous system whereby journalists had to physically attend an open court and follow proceedings was better as it provided for easier access to information.

The journalist argues that, in terms of sections 69(1) and (2) of the constitution, every citizen has the right to a fair public hearing and trial and the media plays a critical role in the dissemination of information that makes this possible.

Court hearings, documents and proceedings, Chingarande says, are public unless there are cogent reasons to restrict publicity and public access.

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