Power Of Numbers Prevails As Barbados Court Opens To The Public
On Monday, a Barbados judge changed an earlier decision to have a closed bail hearing for the two freelance journalists arrested last Saturday when they tried to take photographs of a police officer charged with dealing in cocaine. (See Nation stories: Journalists Show Support & Media Close Ranks)
Despite the fact that only “some” family and media colleagues were allowed into the court, this was a stunning victory by the dozens of local news media people who showed up to support freelancers Cherie Pitt and Jimmy Gittens. It just shows what can happen when a few determined people challenge the system and say “This is wrong.”
Barbados Courts Often Operate In Secret, Closed Hearings
It may surprise our foreign readership to learn that here on Barbados, people are often brought before the closed courts where what happens is kept from the public. Judges on this island will order their court closed on the flimsiest of excuses so charges can be processed, dropped or negotiated to resolutions that would disturb the citizens if they only knew.
Transcripts of proceddings are seldom available even to lawyers – let alone to the media or public. Many “hearings” happen in the judges’ chambers where deals are sometimes made to “quietly let things fade away.”
The Barbados news media has often been part of such coverups and it is not uncommon for stories to just drop off the news media radar at the same time that deals are done in closed courts. Nothing is ever said again and the media remains quiet.
But the news media were not willing to let that happen on Monday with two of their own being dragged before a “closed to the public” court. They pushed, used their numbers and their power and the judge soon decided that the “public interest” required an open process in an open court.
We Have Two Messages For Members of the “Professional” Barbados Media
1. Congratulations on pressuring the judge to have an open process in an open court.
2. Why hasn’t the media made an issue of closed court hearings before? Why only when two of your own are before the court? Has the “professional” Barbados journalism community now decided that this abuse by judges in closing public courts should be addressed in the public interest? Will we see such professional interest the next time a Barbados judge closes a courtroom to the media and the public?
Or, is it as we suspect – that the fight to have an open and transparent Barbados justice system is only a media cause when journalists are before the courts?
The “professional” Barbados media has much to atone for with the Bajan public.