No broadcast, no tweets as doc testifies

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oscar reax REUTERS Oscar Pistorius in the High Court in Pretoria during his murder trial. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria - Professor Gert Saayman was the tenth witness to take the stand, and told the court he had ethical issues with his testimony being broadcast live.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said that Saymaan would provide graphic details on Steenkamp's condition after the shooting and the State was opposing the televising of this testimony.

Nel also said they would prefer to wait for a grief counsellor be present in court before starting.

A short adjournment was called to allow the media to oppose this application.

Saayman told the court there were three reasons why his testimony should not be broadcast.

1. The very personal findings and graphic details that emerge in an autopsy. These details have the potential to compromise Steenkamp's dignity. “It is our duty to preserve the dignity of the deceased,” said Saayman.

2. By such public and contemporaneous screening of the information, it is possible to impinge on the rights of friends and relations of deceased.

3. It goes against the good morals of society. Unaware people - including children - may be exposed to this kind of explicit information.

On behalf of the media opposing the application, advocate Nick Ferreira said broadcasters and other publications would compromise, that no exhibits would be published and that testimony would not be broadcast live, instead recorded and summarised.

He noted that their were potential risks in broadcasting the testimony, but he also cited the media's rights to freedom of expression, and that banning Saayman's testimony in advance could be jumping the gun, depending on what his testimony entailed.

But defence advocate Kenny Oldwage argued that Ferreira had not addressed the potential damage that could be done to the dignity of Steenkamp's family and friends.

He also mentioned that there's no solution to journalists taking to Twitter to publicly spread the details of Saayman's testimony, and that Judge Thokozile Masipa should uphold Saayman's objection.

Masipa queried how, if broadcasters were regulated on what they could report on, the print media be monitored.

Nel said that the print media would have to summarise what was said and that the court would have to trust in responsible reporting.

Ferreira said the broadcast media would prepare packages authorised by their editors, which would be given to the prosecution and defence to determine any issues before broadcast.

Oldwage then said that if a stalemate is reached between lawyers and broadcasters over content, it could lead to further litigation. He said Ferreira had failed to provide a solution to this problem.

But then Ferreira said that if there was a deadlock, the video and audio would not be broadcast.

Masipa chose not to provide judgment on the application, with Saayman starting his testimony.

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