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SC asked to allow live coverage of Pemberton trial

MANILA: The camp of slain transgender Filipino woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude has brought to the Supreme Court its plea for live media coverage of the murder trial against an accused United States Marine, citing the public’s right to information and the constitutional rights to free speech and of the press.

Lawyers of Laude’s family went to the high court after the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) denied twice live media coverage of the proceedings against US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.

“To allow the media to enter the courtroom and to attend the ongoing Pemberton trial is mandated by the constitutional right to free speech and of the press,” the petition read.

“The fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including the criminal proceedings in the ongoing Pemberton trial,” it read.

The petition also cited the public’s “paramount” right to information, which “concomitantly assures the media of the mantle of constitutional protection.”

“This case is of great public interest to the Filipino people. As such, the public has the right to know the events that transpire in the proceedings of this case,” it said.

Currently, media are barred from entering the Olongapo RTC Branch 74 during scheduled hearings, limiting reporters, cameramen and photographers to cover proceedings from outside the courtroom.

The Laude family requested the court to open its doors to media coverage first on Dec. 19, when Pemberton was arraigned. This plea was denied on Dec. 23.

The family then filed a motion for reconsideration but was also denied on Feb. 23. They thus decided to bring the matter to the Supreme Court.

“Until now, members of the media are still barred from even entering the courtroom of the Olongapo City RTC Branch 74 during the ongoing trial hearings of Pemberton,” said the petition.

“Barring the media from the courtroom partakes of a serious limitation on the right to free speech and of the press. The so-called fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including the criminal proceedings in this case,” it said.

Pemberton, currently under US custody at the Philippine military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, is on trial for the slay of Laude at an Olongapo City lodging house on Oct. 11, 2014.

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