A South African high court ruled that cameras will be allowed in court for Oscar Pistorius’ trial in the killing of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. A watershed moment in South Africa’s legal history, the Pretoria High Court’s ruled that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to tape parts of the highly-scrutinized murder trial.
The ruling, the first time in South African history that a court has allowed cameras to record a criminal trial, was in response to several local media who had applied to broadcast the trial live. The former Olympic star – who was heralded for displaying heroic performances at various athletic competitions – has attracted intense media frenzy for allegedly murdering his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day 2013.
In the ruling, Judge Dunstan Mlambo said that the question of whether the right of the accused to a free trial and the right to freedom of expression for the media and principle of open justice were all factored-in before he came to his decision. Mlambo said that in order to balance all of these interests and give them its proper consideration, witnesses in the trial who choose not to give their consent beforehand, should not be filmed by TV cameras during their testimony. Furthermore, Judge Mlambo placed limitations on photographs taken during the trial.
What was significant in his ruling was that important parts of the trial, including the prosecution and defense opening statements and closing arguments, police evidence and experts’ testimony can be broadcasted on TV. The live audio recording for radio broadcast will also be aired for the entirety of the trial.
Judge Mlambo also said that his decision was also rooted in and aimed at demystifying public perception that the justice system unfairly serves the rich and elite while it only remains harsh to the poor and economically disenfranchised. Edward Prutschi, Legal Analyst for NewsTalk1010 and a Toronto criminal lawyers, was on the Jerry Agar show to discuss the globally pertinent legal topic about cameras in the courtroom.