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SBD Global/February 26, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Criminal Trial Of Oscar Pistorius Can Be Televised, South African Judge Rules

This will mark the first South African criminal trial in which cameras will be allowed.
A South African judge ruled on Tuesday that the murder trial of Olympic and Paralympic sprinter OSCAR PISTORIUS "can be televised, giving millions around the world direct access to one of the most sensational celebrity trials" since O.J. SIMPSON's, according to Ed Stoddard of REUTERS. In a televised ruling in a Pretoria high court, Judge DUSTAN MLAMBO said that "it was vital that impoverished South Africans who feel ill-treated by the justice system be given a first-hand look at the trial." Mlambo said, "The justice system is still perceived as treating the rich and famous with kid gloves whilst being harsh on the poor and the vulnerable. Enabling a larger South African society to be able to follow first-hand criminal proceedings which involve a celebrity, so to speak, will go a long way into dispelling these negative and unfounded perceptions" (REUTERS, 2/25). BLOOMBERG's Franz Wild wrote Mlambo said that TV footage will be limited to the opening and closing arguments, expert evidence, police testimony and the delivery of the judgment. He said that "Pistorius’s evidence can not be filmed, while that of witnesses can only be televised with their consent." Mlambo said that Multichoice "is allowed to install three cameras in the courtroom 72 hours before the hearings start." He said that the judge will determine at which points of the trial they can film, adding that "close-ups will be prohibited." Multichoice, a unit of Africa’s largest media company, "operates the continent’s largest pay-television business" (BLOOMBERG, 2/25).

SOUTH AFRICAN FIRST: CNN's Smith-Spark & Curnow wrote Mlambo delivered his ruling -- "which will put cameras in a criminal trial for the first time in South Africa -- in response to several local media broadcasters' applications to broadcast the trial live." In his ruling, Mlambo said that "the question of whether the trial should be televised shows the conflict between the right of the accused to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression for the media and the principle of open justice." Pistorius' legal team had argued that "some witnesses would be inhibited and potentially traumatized by intrusive filming as they gave their testimony." The legal team for REEVA STEENKAMP's family also said that "it did not want the trial televised" (CNN, 2/25).
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