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Fair judgment indeed!

Nov 12, 2014, 10:07 AM

Although one swallow does not make a summer, the judgment of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on Monday in the case of the two journalists - Sainey MK Marenah and Musa S. Sheriff - has indeed brought home some sigh of relief and demonstrated the independence of some quarters of our judiciary.

Magistrate Jacqueline Nixon Hakim has finally freed the two young journalists who were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and publication of false news.

“I am of the view that the prosecution has failed to prove the essential ingredients of the offence on both counts as required by law.I shall hereby acquit and discharge the accused persons on all the two counts,” the magistrate said in her ruling, to bring to an end the longwinded trial which lasted 11 months – since January 2014.

The outcome of the matter has also affirmed the stance of the two journalists that they were not guilty of the charges placed on them.

The judgment has not only restored people’s confidence in the judiciary, but has also affirmed the independence of the courts.

Taking a leaf from Magistrate Hakim, it is vital that each magistrate or judge in this country is able to decide cases solely on the evidence presented in court by the parties, and in accordance with the law.

Only relevant facts and the law should form the basis of a court’s decision. Only in this way can the judiciary discharge its constitutional responsibility to the nation, as it continues to conduct fair and impartial trials with rightful judgments between citizens and or between the citizen and the state.

In The Gambia, the responsibilities of the courts in disputes between the citizen and the state have increased over the years.

Hence there is the need for the judiciary to be independent and endeavour to discharge justice and the truth, particularly with regard to the people, the media, versus the State.

Magistrate Hakim’s judgment will give confidence to our colleagues that the courts are there to uphold Section 207 of the constitution, which guarantees the freedom and independence of the press.

A free press is a determinant of the extent of freedom of speech in society.

Where there is a free press, there is also a free and open society, such as a democratic society.

It is vital in a democracy that individual judges and the judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures, so that those who appear before them and the wider public have confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.

Magistrate Hakim has just exercised her impartiality and independence in delivering this inspiring judgment, a judgment that will further boost people’s confidence in our magistrates and judges and the judicial system in general.

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Nelson Mandela