Media on tight rein for Oscar trial

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Oscar Pistorius. File picture: Sizwe Ndingane

Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria set numerous conditions on Tuesday for media houses to broadcast the murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo ruled that the media be allowed to broadcast live transmissions and delayed extracts of the trial that begins next week.

“MultiChoice and Primedia are permitted to broadcast opening arguments on behalf of the State and the accused, the evidence of all experts called to give evidence for the State, excluding evidence of the accused and his witnesses,” Mlambo said.

“The evidence of any police officer or former police officer in relation to the crime scene, the evidence of all other State witnesses unless such a witness does not consent to such broadcasting and the presiding judge rules that no such recording and broadcasting can take place.”

He said closing arguments by the State and Pistorius's legal team, delivery of the judgment or sentence, if applicable, could also be broadcast.

The application to film the proceedings was brought by news channel eNCA, joined by media houses MultiChoice and Eyewitness News (Primedia).

Mlambo said witnesses had the right to subject the broadcasters to certain “reasonable conditions” including the broadcasting of such witnesses with faces obscured or the use of wide shots.

“Objections by witnesses to the audio/visual recording of their evidence shall be in writing and will be served on the director of public prosecutions and the accused's attorney,” said Mlambo.

“They shall be delivered to the office of the deputy judge president at least 24 hours before the testimony of the said witness to avoid delaying the trial.”

He said the witness's objections would be dealt with in court chambers by the judge president but if unsolved, the presiding judge would make a final ruling after hearing the parties.

Mlambo also ruled that hi-tech broadcast equipment could be installed in the courtroom where Pistorius was set to go on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

“The applicants' authorised representatives are permitted to set up equipment in accordance with the specifications that I mention 1/8in the judgment 3/8 to obtain a video and audio recording and or transmission of the permitted portions as indicated in this order.

“The technical equipment shall comply with the following specifications: three (television) cameras shall be installed in the courtroom at least 72 hours before the trial commences. The cameras shall be installed in locations which are unobtrusive.”

These cameras would be remotely controlled and no camera operator would be allowed in the courtroom.

“The equipment is not permitted to record any confidential communication between legal representatives, between clients and their representatives, or any bench discussions between the judge and assessors that may be appointed.

“The presiding judge shall specifically direct when recording should start and when it should stop.”

He ordered that no “movie lights, flash attachments, or artificial lighting devices” were permitted in court.

Last week, MultiChoice and EWN proposed the use of unmanned, remote-controlled high-definition cameras which would provide feed to all broadcasters.

For print media houses, Mlambo allowed two still photography cameras to be set up at fixed locations in the courtroom.

“Each of the cameras shall be controlled by one of the applicants' representatives who will remain behind the cameras while court is in process. No changes of lenses or film shall be permitted while court is in session,” said Mlambo.

He said if it became apparent to the presiding judge that the equipment was impeding Pistorius's right to a fair trial, she may order all recording and photography to cease.

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

A 24-hour TV channel dedicated to the trial will begin broadcasting on DSTV on March 2.

Sapa


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