Move over Pistorius — the Dewani trial might also be televised

2014-03-25 00:00

MEDIA lawyers will apply to have the Shrien Dewani trial televised to the world in a manner very similar to the Oscar Pistorius showcase.

Anni Dewani’s father said he would support a televised trial, and that the Pistorius showcase had “proved to the world South African courts are about evidence and fairness”.

Dewani is due to be extradited from the United Kingdom and appear in a Western Cape court on April 8.

Yesterday, experts were split on whether the viewing public could handle two intense show trials in a row.

Willem de Klerk, the lawyer who won special media access to the Pistorius trial, said media clients had already expressed “great interest in the next big one — Dewani” and that a similar application would be certain.

De Klerk said Dewani would likely object to cameras on the basis of his claims to fragile metal health, but said his previous criticism of South African courts could increase the chances for the TV cameras.

“Dewani has made a lot about South Africa’s criminal justice system being unfair. Our argument could well be: so let’s televise the trial so the whole world can see if it’s fair,” he said. “We have all learnt a lot in the Oscar matter. In that case, the key was being able to make a deal with the state.”

Speaking from Sweden, Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, said, “As a family, we are discussing now whether two of us will come for April 8, but I will certainly be there for the trial. I would have no objection to the cameras. I want people around the world to see what kind of man he really is.”

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, chairperson of the South African Editors Forum, told The Witness that coverage of the Dewani trial would directly benefit from lessons learnt from the pioneering media arrangement for the Pistorius case.

“This is the right thing to do — we should apply for access and full transparency in the Dewani matter,” said Mkhabela.

Asked if readers and viewers could handle a second show trial, he said, “It will be up to people to decide.”

Professor Kathy Govender, deputy dean of the University of KwaZulu-Natal law school, said, “I can absolutely see a similar media access arrangement for Dewani.”

Govender said that, to successfully object to cameras in court, Dewani would likely have to show that their presence impaired his ability to instruct his attorneys.

Mthunzi Mhaga, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, was not available to respond.

Asked if it would consider covering the trial, Multichoice, which has devoted a channel to the Pistorius trial, declined to comment.

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