Pistorius trial ruling 'a victory for open justice'

2014-02-25 14:05
(Photo: Oscar Pistorius, file AFP)

(Photo: Oscar Pistorius, file AFP)

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Pretoria - Media organisations have broadly welcomed a court ruling that large parts of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial may be broadcast live.

Judge Duncan Mlambo ruled on Tuesday that all proceedings can be broadcast live on an audio feed, and that the opening and closing arguments, as well as testimony from certain witnesses, can be broadcast live on television.

However, Pistorius's testimony, and that of witnesses who object, will be excluded from the live television broadcast.

MultiChoice, eNCA and Eyewitness News brought the application to the North Gauteng High Court last week.

'Delighted'

George Mazarakis, executive editor of The Oscar Pistorius Trial: A Carte Blanche Channel, told News24 on Tuesday that he was "delighted" with the ruling.

"It's a seminal ruling, it's precedent-setting, it's a victory for open justice, and a victory for freedom of speech. We're absolutely thrilled."

Mazarakis said media organisations had spent a great deal of time negotiating behind the scenes with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in order to iron out the details, and the compromises which arose out of this process, such as unobtrusive equipment which will be remotely operated, helped ensure the success of the application.

When audiovisual broadcasts are not allowed, the channel will still broadcast the audio stream of the proceedings, he added.

"It is a landmark moment for television setting an international precedent for coverage of high public interest trials. It is testimony to our robust democracy and we are delighted that Africans are leading the way,” said Aletta Alberts head of content for MultiChoice.

Meanwhile, Eyewitness News editor-in-chief, Katy Katopodis, tweeted on Tuesday that she is "delighted" that the Pistorius trial will be taken to millions of people around the world.

"It's a great victory for open justice, freedom of expression & media freedom… This is a progressive judgment, the judge sought to embrace the media & the way our industry's evolved over the years #Oscar #OscarMedia.

Freedom of speech

"Our Constitution guarantees free speech and media freedom, and the ruling today has gone a long way in reinforcing our rights. #OscarMedia," she tweeted.

Earlier, eNCA group news editor Ben Said told the broadcaster that the judgment was a "great step forward" and that it was a "very wide-ranging judgment, and a very important one."

Pistorius, who is accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February last year, will go on trial in the North Gauteng High Court on 3 March.

His legal team opposed the application by media houses to broadcast proceedings live, arguing that it would lead to an unfair trial.

The 24-hour TV channel dedicated to the trial will be launched on DSTV on 2 March.

Read more on:    enca  |  ewn  |  multichoice  |  oscar pistorius  |  reeva steenkamp  |  judiciary  |  media  |  pistorius trial
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