The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is concerned over the invoking of criminal contempt for scandalizing the court against lawyer Richard Naidu, which has been repealed in many parts of the Commonwealth.
The CLA says it has been observing the contempt proceedings against Naidu over a post on his Facebook.
The post was a comment on a spelling error in a judgement.
The Commonwealth Lawyers Association says it has been accepted that prosecution for this contempt will deter comments on judicial errors or misconduct and will have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression.
The CLA notes that in jurisdictions where prosecution for this contempt is still available, it has only been instituted in exceptional cases where there is a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice.
The Association says its application has also been narrowed by the overriding right to comment in good faith on matters of public concern and importance.
The CLA notes the international response to Naidu’s conviction, and supports the statements issued by LAWASIA, the Bar Association of India and the Law Council of Australia.
The CLA also notes that the Commonwealth Law Ministers, in their meeting in Mauritius on 24th November 2022, unanimously endorsed the Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance, which among others, provides that “The criminal law and contempt proceedings should not be used to restrict legitimate discussion on matters concerning the judiciary and the courts”.
The CLA urges the government of Fiji to respect the freedom of speech and expression and also urges the Attorney General of Fiji to withdraw the charge of contempt against Naidu and to move to quash the conviction.
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations