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Oscar: Media application partly approved

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AP

Oscar Pistorius is set to stand trial in the High Court in Pretoria from March 3.

* Article has been updated

 

By Shain Germaner, Zelda Venter and Theresa Taylor

 

Pretoria - Portions of Oscar Pistorius's trial will be broadcast, with a set of conditions that ensure no manned cameras and no extreme close-ups.

In his ruling on Tuesday morning, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo permitted media houses to broadcast proceedings live, with the exlusion of Pistorius’ evidence and that of his witnesses.

Opening and closing arguments of both the State and the defence may be broadcast live, as well as evidence by experts, police officers and state witnesses provided such witnesses had no issues with the live recordings.

Mlambo emphasised throughout his judgment that the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, and freedom of the media were in direct conflict of Pistorius' right to a fair trial.

He said the Pistorius legal team had argued that their client would affect the outcome of trial, as the proposed application would directly affect witnesses and their testimony. He said that the rights of the media could not trump that of an accused.

However, he said that the public did deserve to be informed on the proceedings, and that the transparency of justice was highly important, especially for those not able to attend the proceedings in person.

However, he said that there is merit in the objection that witnesses could be affected by visual coverage of the trial, but that audio coverage would not be as intrusive.

His judgment was delayed on Tuesday morning after a woman disrupted proceedings, claiming she had been the victim of the media at Pistorius’ bail application.

She is believed to be the same woman who disrupted the blade-runner’s bail application last year when she claimed Pistorius mother had visited her in a dream.

Claiming to be a lawyer, who would not identify herself to the court, tried to have the case postponed on the grounds that she “personally” had been harmed by the media being present at Pistorius' bail application before.

Identifying herself only as Annamarie, she said she was providing documents to the court to prove her case.

But the judge president was having none of her antics, saying she “was wasting the court's time”.

When he told her to sit down, she then questioned he be “disqualified” from the proceedings, prompting him to call security. However, Anna-Marie chose to sit down, rather than be escorted from the court.

She is believed to be the same woman who tried to have Pistorius’bail application suspended last year in order to have him sent for mental observation.

At the time, the woman called herself Annamarie but that her last name was “uncertain” as she was previously Riethmiller and also previously Versfeld - ex-wife of Pistorius's orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Gerald Versfeld.

During the bail application, Annamarie claimed she had been visited in a dream by Pistorius’ mother, Sheila who had asked her to help her son.

24 hour channel, The Oscar Pistorius Trial Channel, eNCA and Eyewitness news were also seeking audio of the trial to be broadcast. However, they explicitly requested that this only apply to the evidence and testimony of experts, police witnesses and other witnesses who consent, to be televised.

Meanwhile, Independent News, Media 24 and the Times Media Group said the order they sought was to – by agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions – take still pictures during the trial proceedings without causing disruption or distraction.

The print media said it would abide by an order that they will refrain from taking pictures of witnesses who object to having pictures taken while giving evidence. But, this excludes expert witnesses such as police, where the judge does not object.

The print media further said it would abide by a ruling from the trial judge to stop photographing a witness if it infringed on a witness’s privacy or to Pistorius’s right to a fair trial. The National Prosecuting Authority is not opposing the application, as long as the above conditions are in place.

Only Pistorius himself is opposing the application on the grounds that the taking of still pictures will inhibit witnesses and infringe their privacy.

Mlambo was told that Pistorius’ objection could only apply to witnesses who testify for the defence. According to the media houses it cannot apply to State witnesses, since the DPP already consented to a regime that will cover those witnesses.

The judge was told that the only issue in dispute is whether the print media should be allowed to take still pictures of witnesses for the defence on the same terms.

They said witnesses will be protected, as the presiding judge may object when the need arises.

The Star


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