Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Transparency in military justice matters (pun intended)

Egyptian Armed ForcesHeadline Egypt considers tighter curbs on media coverage of military

At a recent conference on military justice issues around the world, access to information about courts-martial dockets in particular was a topic and a question.  The impromptu unstructured survey -- "raise your hands" -- led to an interesting conclusion. Lawyers and academics of each country represented experience difficulty with adequate access to information about military justice cases.  Practitioners need timely and complete access to pleadings and decisions to ensure effective representation of a client.  Beyond that, if practitioners have difficulty finding information, then public access is perforce more difficult.  The public will have less reliable sources of information when timely and detailed information is (intentionally or through a malaise about the public need to know) unavailable.  The public, as well as policymakers are then partly subject to the whims and some fantasies of journalists, special interest groups, or even the actors in the system.  The lack of knowledge and understanding may lead to perverse policy or an unwillingness to adopt new policies because the ability for a full and frank knowledgeable conversation is debased.  Those who would be discomposed through exposure to the disinfectant of sunlight [1] are encouraged to maintain business as usual.  A reasoned public discourse and ensuing public policy may become skewed or ineffective.  As Henry Ford is supposed to have said, "You must know all there is to know in your particular field and keep on the alert for new knowledge. The least difference in knowledge between you and another [person] may spell [their] success and your failure."  So with that lead in - - - - the international news.

Egypt is drafting a law tightening restrictions on media coverage of the armed forces, government and judicial sources said, alarming journalists who believe this would end three years of relative press freedom. . . .
A law in effect for decades already bans reporting on the military without permission, but a text of the new draft leaked to local media would increase curbs and penalties.
 If the law passes, you can still visit the Egyptian armed forces on Facebook.  And it appears the law is likely directed more toward operational matters.  Of course, it is said is it not that military justice is an operational matter.  In the meantime let us hope that our respective military organizations can --

For our U.S. brethren, another alleged quote of Henry Ford: "The time will come when man will know even what is going on in the other planets [military justice systems] and perhaps be able to visit them."

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