Shrien Dewani trial TV channel in the works

2014-05-25 15:00

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The murder trial of alleged honeymoon killer Shrien Dewani might be televised.

Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice’s head of content, has ­confirmed to a reporter there are plans in the pipeline for a dedicated court channel that will broadcast the proceedings in ­Dewani’s trial.

Alberts is quoted by Thinus Ferreira, a TV journalist, blogger and City Press contributor, as confirming there are plans for a dedicated channel after the popularity of the Oscar Pistorius trial channel exceeded all expectations.

Attempts to confirm Alberts’ comments were unsuccessful.

According to a report in City Press’ Afrikaans sister paper Rapport, the Oscar Channel has made history as the most ­popular pay-TV channel in South ­Africa’s history.

Only the SABC and had bigger audiences.

But the plans for Dewani’s murder trial to be televised have elicited scorn from some sections of the legal fraternity. Advocate Johann Engelbrecht SC, who has acted as a judge, said he was opposed to the broadcast.

“It is detrimental to the dignity of the court when you broadcast proceedings across the world as if they were a soap opera,” he said.

Kenny Boonzaier, an experienced criminal lawyer, agrees that broadcasting cheapens court proceedings and turns them into a circus.

“One always has to look at what is fair and what is in the interests of the administration of justice and I don’t [think the broadcasting of court proceedings] is.”

Another criminal lawyer, Wessie Wessels, explained that a witness in a criminal matter has never been ­allowed to hear the evidence of other witnesses testifying before them.

“It is now impossible to enforce that. How will the court now determine whether a witness’ evidence is accurate or if it has been tainted by another witness’ ­evidence?”

But Willem de Klerk, a media lawyer who represents City Press, said these reservations were simply “not in keeping with technological reality”.

“Social media and Twitter are part of our society now. Any court case that is going to be covered by the media will be covered through Twitter.

“Even if a witness were outside court, if they really wanted to follow proceedings they would be able to,” De Klerk said.

The Pistorius trial has made legal history by being the first in South Africa in which the testimony of witnesses has been broadcast live.

But the broadcast of Dewani’s trial would be dependent on the outcome of an application by ­MultiChoice, which is currently before Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe.

Dewani, who allegedly orchestrated the murder of his wife Anni in November 2010, is currently being psychologically evaluated and will reappear in court on June 20.

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