THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oscar Pistorius murder trial: National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wants the world to watch the court proceedings live on television.


The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wants Oscar Pistorius' court trial in which he stands accused of the alleged premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, to be watched worldwide live on television from 3 March, saying it will show the world how, and that, South Africa's justice system works.

Oscar Pistorius' lawyers however oppose the broadcast of his trial beginning 3 March, saying it will compromise his rights to a fair trial.

Oscar Pistorius shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day, 14 February 2013. The state has accused the Paralympic athlete dubbed "The Bladerunner" of alleged premeditated murder.

Massive worldwide media attention has seen multiple lawyers representing multiple international and local media outlets, requesting live television coverage of the trial.

MultiChoice will be running a special, dedicated Oscar Pistorius Trial TV channel on DStv on channel 199 from 2 March with documentaries packaged by Combined Artistic Productions, which is also responsible for the investigative news magazine show Carte Blanche on M-Net.

DStv will broadcast the trial on the Oscar Pistorius Trial TV channel if the court allows TV cameras inside.

A court decision whether or not to allow cameras in the form of a live or delayed televised feed could be made this week. The North Gauteng Judge President's office began deliberating on Friday whether to allow the application to broadcast the murder trial.

Nathi Mncube, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says "we felt that to some extent it is an opportunity to educate the public. The majority of people in this country only hear about what happens in court through print media and electronic media. This is an opportunity for them to see live the trial from inception to the end."

"They might have seen bits and pieces of a trial where they see the judgement or the sentencing, but this is an opportunity to show the public from the very onset of a trial."

"We are very concerned of course that we don't want to compromise the trial itself in the sense that it becomes unfair to the accused, but also, to the witnesses," says Nathi Mncube. "Some of the witnesses might not want to testify with cameras rolling. Or just the knowledge that they're being watched throughout the world might be an intimidating factor for them."

"We agreed to say we'll agree to this but there are certain conditions that we would like to attach to this arrangement in the event that the court decides to grant this order".

If televised live or delayed, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial will "be the very first one where you can actually see from the very first witness to the last one, and also see the defence, right up to the point where the verdict is delivered and sentencing, if there is. So that has not happened before," said Nathi Mncube.

"We get the opportunity to teach because part of our responsibility as the NPA is to ensure that people can see that the justice system in South Africa works, and that it works efficiently, contrary to many beliefs locally and internationally. We want to dispel the notion that South Africa's justice system doesn't function," he said.