Pistorius, witnesses’ evidence not to be broadcast

Media houses got the nod on Tuesday for full audio and partial television broadcasts of the murder trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

The high court in Pretoria made the ruling on an application brought by news channel eNCA, joined by media houses MultiChoice and Eyewitness News (Primedia).

In his ruling, Judge Dunstan Mlambo said: "MultiChoice and Primedia are permitted to broadcast the audio recording of the entire trial in live transmissions, delayed broadcasts and or extracts of the proceedings."

Regarding television coverage, media houses could only broadcast opening arguments, any interlocutory applications during the trial, the evidence of all experts called to give evidence for the state, but excluding evidence of Pistorius and his witnesses.

Closing arguments of both the state and Pistorius, delivery of the judgment and the sentence, if applicable, could be also televised. 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-angle 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."

Final ruling
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 ruled that hi-tech broadcast equipment could be installed in the courtroom where Pistorius would go on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. "The technical equipment shall comply with the following specifications: three 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," Mlambo said.

"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" would be 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. 

Still photography
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 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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