Oscar Trial 15.3.2014 06:00 am

How international media see the Oscar trial

FILE PHOTO: Journalists work during a break in proceedings in the murder trial of South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/Pool

FILE PHOTO: Journalists work during a break in proceedings in the murder trial of South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/Pool

For most citizens the broadcasting of the Oscar Pistorius trial has been their first glimpse inside a South African courtroom. Saturday Citizen spoke to some international journalists to find out whether their courts differ from those in South Africa.

Although media presence at the trial has dwindled, journalists from around the world are still filling the court benches.

Laurel Irving, a journalist for Channel 7 in Australia, said the court case is fascinating. “We have a jury system, but in high profile cases a judge would preside,” she said. Unlike the courts in her country, those in South Africa would often see a “surprise”.

“Everything in our judicial system happens predictably. We know which witnesses will be called when. The Pistorius trial is much more spontaneous – which isn’t a good thing,” she said.

Irving was shocked to find some of the basic investigating principles were not followed, but said advocate Barry Roux, the defence attorney, is brilliant.

A Daily Mirror newspaper journalist Lucy Thornton has been in the industry for over 25 years. “Your courts are much more casual. In the United Kingdom it is extremely strict. No drinking or eating – and sometimes even laptops are banned,” she said.

The accused would sit in a glass “box”, flanked by at least two policemen and there was no way his family or the defence would be able to console him or her.

She said all crime scene photos would be shown in graphic detail and the judge would never rule what could and could not be said. In the UK a jury is also used.

Thornton was shocked at the standard of police work: in the UK she had “never known anything going missing from a crime scene”.

Anita Powell, a journalist for Voice of America, said there was no grandstanding in South Africa.

“In the US, a lawyer would be speaking to a jury – really playing to them – and trying to break down complex things in an easily digestible way,” she said.

“The local coverage has been great. Really top notch,” she said.

All agreed: the Pistorius case is actually moving at a brisk pace. “There’s been no sudden adjournments for days on end,” one journalist remarked.

 

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