The proceedings of the investigating judges held at Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek in late January 2008 served as a flashpoint for increasing tension between the press and the court.
Tension between the press, seeking important information and interesting details about the work of the ECCC, and the court, seeking to defend legitimate confidentiality interests, threatens to hinder strong press coverage of the ECCC.
Many NGOs and media organizations recently sent recommendations to the Office of Co-Investigating Judges, seeking to increase the transparency and improve the relationship between journalists and the court.
These efforts are designed to help ensure that the court meets international standards and the court’s own goals to provide justice for the people of Cambodia for atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge era as well as to serve as a model court for international justice.
A press release issued by Office of Co-Investigating Judges on March 3, 2008 stated: “The Co-Investigating Judges recognize that balancing the legitimate ‘watchdog’ role of the press with the necessary confidential nature of the investigations is a complex one.
This should become easier once the ‘public’ phase of the proceedings begins. In order to assist in this respect, the Co-Judges would take this opportunity to announce that they will, on a monthly basis, publish a report on their activities as the case file allows.”
No reports have yet been issued.
Until today, there is little public information reporting on the developments and activities of the Office of Co-Investigating Judges on each case.
The public is frustrated with the amount of information that the court discloses about its work. The current practice of secrecy about many aspects of the operations of the ECCC hinders public engagement and diminishes the credibility of its processes.
The court needs to amplify transparency and reinforce engagement and dialogue with NGOs and media organizations. This can be done without impinging the legitimate confidentiality needs of witnesses, accused and the integrity of the investigation.
The court, the media and civil society have worked hard, in some cases for years, to inform people in Cambodia about the ECCC and generate interest in the work of the court. That effort is beginning to pay off now that the court is moving forward.
The court must work more closely and actively with the press and civil society to ensure that it serves the interest of the public with relevant and timely information. This is critical to the success of the overall mandate of the court itself to serve the needs of the people of Cambodia to see a legitimate justice process at work.
Cambodia Justice Initiative