Following incidents of unlawful obstruction and threatening of guests travelling to and from the studios of news programmes, Sakeliga requested formal legal opinion from counsel on the rights of the media’s guests and collaborators to travel for media-related purposes. The opinion offers guidelines on the protection of the rights of the media and their guests, and the mitigation of risk in case guests are questioned by law-enforcement.
The following is an extract from a letter by Sakeliga, with legal opinion included, to journalists and media organisations. For the complete letter and legal opinion, click on the link at the end.
Dear Members of the Media and Media Organisations,
Legal opinion on your rights and the rights of your guests and collaborators
Through unpleasant personal experience it has come to our attention that law-enforcement is obstructing your guests and collaborators from reaching you, or discouraging them through attempted intimidation, incorrect information, and illegal instructions from accepting your invitations to attend discussions and live interviews with you at your offices and studios.
This letter is accompanied by a legal opinion regarding your freedom to invite, interview, and collaborate with persons who are not members of the media. The opinion also offers guidelines on what you could do to mitigate the risks your guests face when travelling upon your invitation.
Whether unjustified obstruction by law-enforcement is the result of incorrect instructions to police officers from their superiors, or by incorrect interpretation of the regulations by the police officers themselves, or by wilful misconstruction of the regulations by officers with a view to gaining personal advantage through bribes or otherwise, is not of key importance. What matters is that the media’s vital role in the maintenance of a constitutional order, characterised by a distribution of power – by checks and balances – cannot be overstated. Given the current extensive infringements on the rights of the public and the unprecedented centralisation of power in the executive branch of the state, the ability of the media to perform its functions should be closely guarded.