Courts urged to make use of new media

Updated: 2013-10-16 01:01

By CAO YIN (China Daily)

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China's top court asked each court to make full use of new media platforms, including micro blogs, to update trial information in a timely manner and improve judicial transparency. However, legal experts and operators of court micro blogs said guidelines are needed to make such platforms work better.

Chinese courts should all pay attention to public opinion and are required to release trial information via newspapers, television and social media such as micro blogs and WeChat, a popular messaging app, said Supreme People's Court top judge Zhou Qiang.

Courts should improve judicial credibility and reply to the public by making legal work transparent, Zhou added.

On Tuesday, the State Council said in a statement that all government departments should publish authorized information on new media and interact with the public online. It also asked them to establish systems to collect public opinion and arrange for professionals to give further explanations of hot issues.

When Jinan Intermediate People's Court announced online on Aug 18 that Bo Xilai, former Chongqing Party chief, would face trial within four days, its micro blog quickly came into the spotlight. The court published 153 posts broadcasting the high-profile hearing live. Thirty posts and three photos of Bo's sentencing were forwarded almost 200,000 times on Sept 22.

Similarly, Beijing High People's Court used its micro blog to report the hearings of several controversial cases last month, including a man who killed a child in her stroller and a gang rape involving a Chinese military singer's son.

By Sept 23, the court's micro blog had attracted 430,000 followers, and the figure soared to 530,000 within two days as it posted two rulings online.

So far, 790 courts in the country have registered Sina Weibo micro blog accounts, and the number is increasing, according to statistics provided by the Web giant.

But Zhao Yan, Beijing High People's Court's micro-blogger, said the job is still new to people like him and they need training and guidance.

"Weibo is good for judicial transparency, but it spreads information so fast that it also places high demands on us," said Zhao. "There are no clear rules on how to do the job."

Zhao usually selected legal information based on his experience and then reported to his superior officers for fact-checking and approval.

Some courts' micro blogs are operated by people with some media knowledge, but most operators find it a challenge to handle online emergencies, he said.

Cheng Lei, a Renmin University of China associate law professor specializing in judicial reform, said the top court urgently needs to establish guidelines for courts to follow.

Such guidelines should stipulate what kind of information should be open to the public and what should not, such as information that would hurt the interests of those involved in the cases, he said.

He also suggested people who operate court micro blogs should be trained "because their operation represents how professional the court is".

Shi Lei, deputy director of the research department under the top court, said at a seminar on Tuesday that the top court is considering drafting guidelines on legal micro blogs, but there are no specific measures yet.