The media play a very important role in the legal world. They inform the public of major trials and court decisions.
Journalists have to follow rules so that the legal process runs smoothly.
These rules can vary from one court to another, but the most important ones are explained below.
Access to Courtrooms
Journalists usually have access to courtrooms, like anyone else. They can take notes on what's happening and use their notes to prepare television reports or write newspaper articles.
Journalists are also usually allowed in courtrooms during "in camera" hearings. An in camera hearing is not open to the general public.
Taking pictures is not allowed in Quebec courtrooms. This is why we often see sketches of the courtroom and people accused of crimes on the news.
The rule for sound recordings is different. Journalists can record the lawyers' arguments and the judges' decisions, unless the judge forbids it. But journalists can't usually broadcast the recordings. They can only listen to them to refresh their memories afterwards.
Journalists can also ask to see the court records at the office of the court clerk, where many important documents are kept. But they are not allowed to see court records in family cases and cases involving a person's health.
Journalists are allowed to use their cameras outside courtrooms, but this doesn't mean they can chase down people in the courthouse!
Photographers and cameramen can usually take photographs and film only in specific areas. This means journalists can't record interviews anywhere they want in the courthouse.
What Journalists Can Publish
Sometimes, there are limits to what information journalists can reveal about a court case.
For example, the law usually protects the identity of children under 18. This means the media cannot mention the name of an accused who is under 18. There are some exceptions to this rule, and judges sometimes allow it.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.