On December 10-13 the ‘Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan’ project of USAID, the Supreme Court and UNDP hosted a press tour to courts in the Sirdarya, Jizzakh, Samarkand and Bukhara regions, attended by national and international journalists. The four-day event ended with the international workshop ‘Transparency and Accessibility of Courts: An Important Factor in the Protection of Human Rights’, conducted in Bukhara on December 13.
This mission’s purpose directly reflected an objective of the ‘Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan’ project - to develop Uzbekistan’s courts in a direction that ensures they represent the legitimate rights and interests of Uzbekistan’s citizens. An emphasis of the tour was to present the strengthened interaction between the courts and the public, including citizens, institutions and journalists, which helped build public confidence in the courts.
“Significant advancements have been made over recent years to make the courts more open to the public, through ensuring that essential information is made available, and by establishing various means of two-way communication,” said Aziz Abidov, chief of the press-office of the Supreme Court.
“While these channels are in place, what remains is the need to build an environment in which citizens and journalists are actively encouraged to learn about both the daily and long-term operations of courts. Presenting the successes made in this regard, along with directions for future improvement, has been the main purpose of this media tour and the subsequent workshop.”
During the press tour a group of national and international journalists, including a team of filmmakers from the international film company ‘Global Media Creators’, visited the Gulistan city administrative court, the Gallaral inter-district court, the Toyloq district court on criminal cases and inter-district court on economic cases, and the Romitan inter-district court.
The focus of each visit was the adoption of specialist equipment and best international practices, and the use of the E-SUD system, while participants also had the opportunity to attend trials taking place in real time. The tour presented an opportunity for journalists to speak with lawyers, judges and case participants regarding on-going work taking place to enhance the operations of Uzbekistan’s courts.
The international workshop ‘Transparency and Accessibility of Courts: An Important Factor in the Protection of Human Rights’ took place in Bukhara on December 13, with a discussion of national and international viewpoints on the means of improving relationships between Uzbekistan’s courts and public bodies, including journalists and public organisations.
Subjects presented at the workshop by national experts included the state and prospects for interaction between the judiciary and media in Uzbekistan, and the publication of court rulings as a means of protecting civil rights.
International experience presented included that of the US judicial system in interacting with public organizations, while findings and recommendations of the report ‘Global Experience in Journalist-Court Relations: Lessons Learned from the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Australia and South Korea’ were also presented at the Bukhara workshop.
In accordance with the recommendations made and as a follow-up to this event, it is planned that the following documents will be enacted and developed: ‘Regulations for mass media participation in trials’, ‘Guidelines for judges and court PR staff on how to properly interact with media’ and ‘Rules for (judges and court PR staff) on interacting with the public through social media’.
These documents will be offered for discussion by the Supreme Court Plenary session, leading to the further adoption of relative decrees. Once adopted, these documents will constitute a legislative basis for court communication with media, the development of the ethical behavior of judges and court staff in social media, and ensuring proper access by media representatives to trial proceedings.