By Dr. Masimba Mavaza | Efforts should be taken to caution lawyers against ‘gratuitous attacks’ on Judges and the justice system, with the Regulator and government stepping in to curb such behavior on social media.
A clear law is essential, focusing on the manner in which lawyers and clients express their views rather than the substance. The law should provide examples of conduct on social media that could be considered a breach, including misleading comments about judges, the judiciary, or the justice system.
The law must also regulate non-professional conduct, defining boundaries for actions outside a lawyer’s professional practice. Striking a balance between freedom of speech and defamation, it should extend to third-party users making comments on social media that offend judges.
Collaboration between the Minister of Justice and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is crucial to provide advisory opinions and disciplinary decisions on social media, judicial ethics, and Judicial Conduct. Clear guidelines on off-bench conduct, swift punishment for offenders, and materials related to judicial ethics and social media should be established.
The recent case of a litigant accusing a High Court judge of corruption underscores the need for robust measures. Such attacks harm the dignity of judges, and a law should address these issues comprehensively, distinguishing between legitimate criticism and baseless accusations.
Social media platforms play a crucial role in communication, but their use against judges requires careful consideration. Judges, while upholding values of independence and integrity, should also be mindful of potential threats to privacy, safety, and cyberbullying.
The current trend of lambasting judges is contemptuous and jeopardizes fair trial outcomes. Judges should exercise caution in electronic communication and social media to prevent improper influence.
Media scrutiny of judges and their decisions has increased, challenging professional norms. While judges are entitled to freedom of expression, they must conduct themselves to preserve the dignity of the judicial office and ensure public confidence in the judiciary.
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