Media houses will use technologically advanced equipment to record Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, the high court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.
Frank Snyckers SC, for MultiChoice and Eyewitness News, submitted that the equipment was not obtrusive and was controlled remotely.
He said the media houses had secured the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) support.
“The world’s eye will be on the criminal justice system, as it has been. Principles of open justice and right to freedom of expression are part of the right to a fair trial,” he said. “In fact, the trial judge can be given the means to deactivate the recording.”
Pistorius is accused of killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February last year. His trial is expected to be heard in the high court in Pretoria from 3 to 20 March.
Snyckers told the court that if granted permission to film the proceedings, MultiChoice would broadcast the full trial unedited. He said however “unconsenting witnesses” would not be filmed.
The application to film the proceedings was brought by news channel eNCA. It was joined in the application by MultiChoice and Eyewitness News. A 24-hour TV channel dedicated to the upcoming trial would be launched on DSTV on 2 March, a day before the former star athlete goes on trial.
MultiChoice and Eyewitness News said they were proposing to use unmanned, remote-controlled high-definition cameras which would provide feed to all broadcasters.
The NPA on Tuesday said it would not oppose the application. However, NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube said it did have a number of conditions. He would not say at the time what these were.
But permitting live broadcasts of the trial would lead to an unfair outcome, Barry Roux SC, for Pistorius, argued. Media activities in court would have an effect on several aspects of the paralympian athlete’s trial.
“Why can’t this be like any other trial? Why is he different? Is it because he ran fast on the track?” Roux asked in court. “Does it mean that if you are a well-known person there has to be an infringement on your rights? I am talking here about his [Oscar’s] rights. Should we allow a potential infringement of his rights because of his profile?”
Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo reminded Roux his client was a public figure. He asked Roux to show the court how the media’s presence would jeopardise the case.
Roux said: “It is different to know that there are journalists listening to you, because there are always people in the public gallery, than to know that your voice is going the world over?”
Pistorius’s legal team wants the court to ban recording and broadcasting of witness testimony.
Roux said lawyers for Reeva Steenkamp’s parents had not been informed about the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) consent to the live broadcast of the trial.
He cautioned the court not to allow a criminal case to run simultaneously with a “media trial”.
Judgment was reserved. — Sapa