South Africa 26.2.2014 06:00 am

‘Great leap for open justice’

Media clamber round to get a picture of Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius as he appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria .  AFP PHOTO

Media clamber round to get a picture of Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius as he appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria . AFP PHOTO

Yesterday’s ruling that the Oscar Pistorius murder trial may be directly broadcast on radio and parts of it televised has been hailed as a groundbreaking ruling for the principle of open justice.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo’s ruling follows applications by MultiChoice, Primedia, e.tv and three print media houses.

Media and information lawyer Dario Milo said the ruling was unprecedented and represented a practical way for the trial to move forward.

“It allows a compromise between the parties which balances rights in a very practical way. It starts a new era in the coverage of court cases.

“It is groundbreaking and it is a very important pillar in our jurisprudence of open justice and how it’s developing.

Milo said each case was different, but the ruling would give a point of departure for judges that they should take into account modern developments and technology and how it could assist open justice rather than take the approach that it necessarily harmed the right to a fair trial.

Andrew Fawcett an attorney on Oscar Pistorius's defence team at the broadcast trial ruling on 25 February 2014 at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Andrew Fawcett an attorney on Oscar Pistorius’s defence team at the broadcast trial ruling on 25 February 2014 at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Christine Vermooten

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) yesterday welcomed the decision.

“Sanef believes Mlambo demonstrably tried to balance the right to freedom of expression, which undergirds the important principle of open justice, with Pistorius’s right to have a fair trial,” the forum said.

Sanef believes the judgment goes a long way towards entrenching an open, democratic society envisaged in the Constitution in terms of which justice is not only done, but is seen to be done.

“Given the massive public interest in the case, we believe increased numbers of people in South Africa and around the globe will get an opportunity – though limited – to hear, form and express their  opinions on issues related to the case based on facts,” the statement reads.

Carte Blanche executive producer George Mazarakis said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the outcome.

Carte Blanche's executive producer George Mazarakis at the broadcast trial of Oscar Pistorius ruling on 25 February 2014 at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Carte Blanche’s executive producer George Mazarakis at the broadcast trial of Oscar Pistorius ruling on 25 February 2014 at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Christine Vermooten

“I think it is precedent setting. We couldn’t have wished for better. “It’s a major departure for freedom of speech and open justice.”
Primedia’s head of news and current affairs Yusuf Abramjee said the ruling was a victory for media freedom and free speech.

“We believe the openness the judge has shown is the way to go.,” he said.

 

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