Justice Adeyemi Fasanmi of the Ondo State High Court on Thursday, rejected a prayer by a lawyer, Steve Adebowale, to bar journalists from covering the trial of two government officials who allegedly stole a baby delivered by a mentally challenged woman, Deborah Iretioluwa Olorundare.
The two staffers of the Ondo State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Sarumi Adeyemi and Orisamehin Bosede, were arraigned before the court on two counts bordering on conspiracy to commit felony and child theft.
The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the counts.
As the court sat to hear the case, Adebowale, who is the counsel for Sarumi, told the judge that the defendants were subjected to scandal by the media, praying the court to stop journalists from covering the case.
He queried the reason journalists brought cameras to cover the proceedings and asked the judge if journalists had taken permission to be present in court.
He said, “The press cannot constitute itself to an alternative court. The defendants have been embarrassed.”
In his response, the judge replied that journalists did not need any permission to cover any court proceeding, stating that even at the Supreme Court, there are seats reserved for journalists known as the ‘press gallery.’
“This is a case that will deserve public attention. You cannot bar the press from the court. If any journalist maligns your client, you can sue the journalist. I cannot stop the press from coming to court. I don’t have to know if the press is here. The court does not work on speculation. You have not directed my attention to any adverse publication on this case.”
However, the hearing could not commence even when the Prosecuting Counsel, Bunmi Koyenikan, informed the court that three witnesses were present because of the items requested by the defence counsel.
But the judge granted the defendants bail to the sum of N1m and one surety in like sum who must be a civil servant from the rank of Grade Level 13.
Justice Fasanmi said the defendants had one week to perfect their bail conditions and adjourned the case till January 18, 2022, for the commencement of trial.