Suva High Court Judge, Justice Salesi Temo, has raised concerns on the need for the media to report accurately matters concerning the court.
This comes after Justice Temo summoned Fiji Times reporters, Zeke White and Luke Rawalai, to the High Court yesterday.
Justice Temo was concerned with the newspaper’s front page report that failed to report that Timoci Lolohea was sentenced to a mandatory life imprisonment.
This was passed in the High Court on May 8th. The Fiji Times incorrectly reported he got 18 years imprisonment.
Justice Temo said he called the matter because after he delivered Lolohea’s sentencing he had told reporters verbally, what he heard on the radio: And this was how the mass media had been misrepresenting court proceedings.
He said the mass media failed to mention that murder cases had a mandatory life imprisonment sentence.
Justice Temo reiterated that reporters should understand that there was no Men’s Crisis Centre like the women’s centre in Fiji and there were people facing situations like Lolohea going around with similar problems.
Justice Temo said the reason for him bringing up this matter was that he had presided over a number of domestic murder cases.
He said it was important to report accurately because people also took legal lessons from what is reported.
He said, who knows there could be someone going through a similar problem as Lolohea, where the wife was cheating on the husband.
“The role of the law is to educate the public, not to use the murder remedy in resolving their domestic problems like what Lolohea has done,” Justice Temo said.
“What I’m trying to advise the public through my sentence and through the media is to tell people the correct information. That if they choose the option that Mr Lolohea chose, that is what they going to get, mandatory life imprisonment.”
He said the mass media were not to say 18 years in prison because the word 18 years in prison would give that idea, the idea of ‘I can go and kill my wife and I get away with 18 years imprisonment’ not a life imprisonment.
“People must learn not to use the murder option to solve the matrimonial issues,” Justice Temo said.
He said his main motive of calling Mr White to the Court was to teach him a lesson to do his job correctly because he may save a life, he may save a women’s life or a man’s life.
Meanwhile, Justice Temo said it was a day after Lolohea’s sentencing that he was told that the Fiji Sun reported correctly and The Fiji Times not.
Hence, The Fiji Times reporters were summoned to court.
He said the court had a system that copies were sent to the Chief Justice Secretary and sent out to the media to assist in their reporting.
He said if a journalist wanted a copy of the sentence, they could easily ask the court because the court was interested in the public getting correct information.
Fiji Times legal representative Jon Apted said Mr White had only reported what he understood.
He said Mr White did not deliberately set out to misreport the sentence, he meant no harm and realised the error and apologised on the matter.
Mr Apted said normally, there were two reporters reporting on the Lolohea’s case and on that particular day there was a shortage of staff.
Mr White ended up alone in the court room.
The court heard that copies were checked by the Chief of Staff in which Fiji Times Acting Chief-of-Staff, Nasik Swami, informed the court the story was sent to him.
Mr Apted said he was the lawyer checking the copies and also assumed that that was the sentence sent out because he was not present in court.
He said he only learnt that it was not accurate yesterday.
Moreover, the court heard that Labasa Fiji Times reporter Luke Rawalai, was also summoned but he failed to attend the matter as he was based in the Northern Division.
Mr Apted said Mr Rawalai only provided the human interest in the article.
He agreed that The Fiji Times and mass media were important in reporting court proceedings to the public correctly.
Mr Apted said Mr White would undertake to report correctly cases that are presented in the court.
Justice Temo said he had thought of holding Contempt of Court proceedings, however he decided otherwise.