Media coverage of Pemberton trial sought
OLONGAPO, Philippines – Lawyer Harry Roque stressed the importance of press freedom in asking an Olongapo court to allow media coverage of the murder trial of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, suspect in transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude's slay.
The Laude family through their lawyers Roque and Virgie Suarez asked the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 on Friday afternoon, December 19, to "allow the media to enter the court room and cover the hearings in this case."
News media members were barred from entering the courtroom Friday morning to witness Pemberton's first appearance in court. This forced them to rely on photos and narratives of those who were inside the court.
Citing a European Court of Human Rights decision, the lawyers argued that courts cannot operate in a vacuum and "there could be discussion of court proceedings as they were taking place."
"Reporting including comment on court proceedings" is consistent with the requirement "that hearings be in public," they said.
Laude's brutal murder in October hogged headlines for weeks, reviving concerns and conversations about US military presence in the country.
Pemberton is a US visiting soldier under the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement.
In their motion filed at around 3 pm, the Laudes' lawyers argued that denying the media access to the proceedings may constitute a "serious limitation on the right to free speech and of the press."
They said the "public has the right to know" about the murder case, rife with political and social undertones including issues surrounding LGBT rights and US-Philippines military relations.
The case involves "matters of great public interest," the lawyers argued.
Laude's mother Julita likewise relies on the press to know the progress in the murder case, the motion read. She lives in a town in Leyte.
"Under international human rights law, the Private Complainant and her family members have the right to know and be informed about the proceedings as an integral part of their right to have access to justice," the motion said.
Finally, the lawyers argued that Pemberton's rights as an accused can still be protected, pointing to coverage guidelines set for the Maguindanao massacre case wherein reporters are allowed inside the court room and camera men are allowed to take video footages before the hearings start.
The 2009 Maguindanao massacre killed 58 people, including 32 journalists. They were gunned down and buried in a mass grave by armed men allegedly on the orders of the Ampatuan clan in Mindanao. – Rappler.com