By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE safety of lawyers as court officials is an increasing concern in the legal fraternity.
The judiciary can only be an effective “last bastion of hope” for the masses when it can work hand-in-hand with the mediums through which freedom of speech is exercised and these are the institutions like media and the churches, private lawyer and principal of Kassman Lawyers, Stephen Kassman, said this week.
“The media and the churches play crucial roles in informing the people and they must continue to do so without fear or favour,” he said.
Mr Kassman made the comments on Monday when he was asked to stand in for Kerenga Kua, the president of the PNG Law Society, to deliver a speech at the legal year opening church mass in Port Moresby.
“It is becoming a concern to many lawyers.
“Our safety is a great issue.
“It is no longer in courtrooms (when there are so many people in the public gallery as supporters
for the parties involved and looking intimidating), but it is everywhere,” he said.
He also pointed outthat the media and the churces (through their pastors) must exercise the freedom of speech without fear or favour to keep the public informed of the truth.
“Late last year and in the last month, PNG has seen attacks on lawyers, including the Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek who is a lawyer by profession, and the president of the PNG Law Society Kerenga Kua who is one of the principals of the Posman Kua Aisi Lawyers.
“There are growing concerns in the legal fraternity over their safety in exercising their roles and duty as officers of the courts.
“It is not so much what happens in court but what is increasingly happening outside of the courtrooms, when supporters of certain parties are taking the law into their own hands,” he said.
Mr Kassman also cited the media reports of the attempted murder of Mr Manek last December; and the shooting relating to the Gadens lawyers which was reported in the Australian media.
“These are real serious and we must act decisively to deal with these,” he said.
He said the media must report fairly and accurately, the decisions of the courts, and report fairly without fear or favour.
“The presence of crowds in courtrooms, what can be read into that?
“Are they interested in what is before the court, in the litigation process, or what exactly can be read into these?
“The crowded public gallery can often be intimidating and can result in lawyers not performing their tasks adequately thus influencing the lawyers’ discharge of their duties.”