'Silent shots' of Oscar trial mooted

2014-02-19 14:46
Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. (AFP)

Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court. (AFP)

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Pretoria - A ban on still photographs during Oscar Pistorius's murder trial would infringe on the right to freedom of expression, the North Gaunteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

Nick Ferreira, for print media houses, was asking the court to allow two photographers in court during the Paralympic athlete's trial.

"We are proposing that there will be no flash photography, no close-ups and no cabling in court. There would be no identifying logos on the cameramen or the cameras," Ferreira said.

The photographers would take "silent photographs" to avoid disturbing proceedings.

"The NDPP [National Director of Public Prosecutions] has consented to the taking of still photos. A blanket ban is a restriction on the right to freedom of expression. Only Mr Pistorius objects to the relief sought," said Ferreira.

Steven Budlender, for eNCA, said Pistorius's claim that broadcast activities would distract witnesses was implausible. He referred the court to several high-profile cases across the world that had been broadcast live.

Budlender said if the court could not grant permission to broadcast, media houses would settle for audio coverage.

Justice and freedom of expression

Frank Snyckers SC, for MultiChoice and Eyewitness News, submitted that the equipment was not obtrusive and was controlled remotely. He said the media houses had secured the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) support.

"Principles of open justice and right to freedom of expression are part of the right to a fair trial," he said.

"In fact, the trial judge can be given the means to deactivate the recording."

Pistorius is accused of killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February last year. His trial is expected to be heard in the High Court in Pretoria from 3 to 20 March.

Snyckers told the court that if granted permission to film the proceedings, MultiChoice would broadcast the full trial unedited. He said however "unconsenting witnesses" would not be filmed.

The NPA on Tuesday said it would not oppose the application. However, NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said it did have a number of conditions. He would not say at the time what these were.

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