Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Irish court allows reporters into family law case (but bars tweeting)

The High Court gave a landmark judgment on surrogacy earlier today, holding that the biological mother of twins born to a surrogate (her sister) was entitled to be recorded as their mother on their birth certificates. I'll leave the family law side of this to the experts, but I was struck by how the court handled the issue of media coverage. In particular, in exercising its discretion to allow certain designated journalists to report on the proceedings the court did so subject to a number of conditions one of which was that: "no contemporaneous social media reporting e.g. by Twitter shall be carried out by the designated reporters."

This seems to be the first time that an Irish court has positively restricted the tweeting or live blogging of court proceedings, though that's not to say that the issue hasn't been considered.

In 2009 Abigail Rieley - then working as a court reporter - could still say that the issue hadn't yet reached the judicial consciousness. In 2011 it was reported that a judicial committee would consider the issues of jurors' use of the internet and might also consider the issue of courtroom reporting on social media. (I'm not aware that anything public ever emerged from this - if you know better please let me know.) Still again, in 2012 the media relations advisor to the Courts Service published an interesting article on social media and the courts (PDF) which amongst other things suggested that there was a need for judicial guidance along the lines of the current English rules regarding tweeting from court.

Meanwhile, despite these concerns the use of Twitter in court has simply become a part of day to day reality. Today's judgment is the first time it has butted up against judicial resistance - and that only in the particularly difficult and private context of a family law matter. I suspect, though, that it won't be the last.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose Twitter has a reputation for comments that have not been thought through. But with censureship where does one draw the line; Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, direct post to the online version of the newspaper...