Oscar Pistorius' prosthetics lay on the floor as he walks on his stumps during argument in mitigation of sentence by his defence attorney Barry Roux in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. An appeals court found Pistorius guilty of murder and not a lesser charge of culpable homicide for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Pool via AP)
Oscar Pistorius' prosthetics lay on the floor as he walks on his stumps during argument in mitigation of sentence by his defence attorney Barry Roux in the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. An appeals court found Pistorius guilty of murder and not a lesser charge of culpable homicide for the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (AP Photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Pool via AP)

Final chapter in tragic Oscar saga

By Krista Mehr Time of article published Jun 18, 2016

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Johannesburg - South Africans hoping events in court this week would bring closure in the saga of Oscar Pistorius’s tragic fall were disappointed, as the judge set a date next month for her sentencing of the Olympian.

There was more shock for South Africans when they woke up to find gruesome images of Reeva Steenkamp’s body on the front pages of some morning newspapers after Judge Thokozile Masipa granted a request by the family of the slain model and law graduate to make public police pictures of the crime scene.

More than three years after Pistorius shot Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, the crime continues to grip and divide South Africa.

Some people saw the judge’s decision as a hard but important way to communicate the gravity of Pistorius’s crime.

Others, however, said the move risked voyeurism and desensitising viewers in a country beset by high levels of violence.

Media organisations and observers were divided over the merits of publishing the photographs, which were quickly circulated. By Thursday, a handful of mostly foreign outlets had published them online. Several used liberal blurring, but at least one South African daily, the New Age, ran a large close-up of Steenkamp’s bloodied head across the front page of its print edition under the headline “Pic Reeva’s dad wants you to see”.

But a number of news outlets played down or did not publish the pictures.

The Saturday Star decided not to publish the pictures due to their graphic nature.

The news channel eNCA said on its Facebook page it would not be publishing the photos.

Meanwhile, others took to social media to ask readers what they thought: “Quick poll to @News24 readers: Would you like us to publish the Reeva Steenkamp crime scene photos?”

The Press Council of South Africa’s code of ethics and conduct says violent content should be avoided “unless the public interest dictates otherwise”, in which case warnings should be displayed.

Given how long this case had been in the public sphere, the council’s director, Joe Thloloe, said the argument for public interest could be made.

“It is important for people to see the type of crime that Pistorius is accused of,” he said.

“Seeing the pictures will bring it to the foreground.”

Others argued that showing such graphic images might do more harm than good.

“This is a complicated one,” said Lisa Vetten, a research associate at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research.

She said while Steenkamp clearly wanted to communicate how his daughter died, “for a lot of people it will be just voyeuristic; it’s debatable whether gruesome and violent pictures make people less violent”.

Watching Steenkamp’s difficult testimony this week was probably more powerful than publishing the photographs, said William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa.

He doubted seeing images of the body would stop anyone about to commit a violent crime.

“We are one of the most violent societies anywhere in the world,” Bird said. “We are still a nation living with post-traumatic stress; you would understand why (Steenkamp) would say that for someone with his level of pain and anguish - but what purpose does it serve for people to see them?”

The Washington Post

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