SA Judge To Rule On Live Televising Of Oscar Pistorius' Murder Trial

Pretoria, February 25, 2014 – A South African judge is due to rule whether the trial of athlete Oscar Pistorius can be televised. 

Pistorius shot his girlfriend, the model and reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp, more than a year ago, and his murder trial begins next Monday. 

State prosecutors allege the killing was premeditated, but he claims he mistook her for an intruder.

The court in Pretoria will decide how much, if any, of the proceedings can be filmed and broadcast live.

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says South Africa’s justice system prides itself on its transparency.

Members of the ruling African National Congress Women’s League march in Pretoria on the anniversary of the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, 14 February 2014 Public interest in the forthcoming trial is at fever pitch 

As a result the media are allowed access to courtrooms to cover any case they express interest in – even TV cameras are allowed based on the merits of the case, she says.

But should the application be allowed, it would be the first time a trial would be televised live, setting a precedent in South Africa for future cases, our reporter says.

The application to film proceedings was brought by media groups MultiChoice, eNCA and Eyewitness News, reported Sapa news agency.

It would allow the evidence of experts, police witnesses and any other consenting witness to be televised, along with audio of the full trial, the media groups said in a 18 February media release. 

They argue that it is in the public interest for cameras to be allowed into the trial, and have secured the agreement of state prosecutors, who argue that this would allow the world to see that South Africa’s justice system works well.

MultiChoice is even planning 24-hour coverage of the trial on its own dedicated channel – the Oscar Pistorius Trial channel – which is due to begin broadcasting on Sunday.

But defence lawyers vehemently disagree, claiming it could lead to an unfair trial. 

Barry Roux SC – lawyer for Mr Pistorius – asked why his client’s trial was not being treated like any other, Sapa reported.

Ms Steenkamp, 29, was shot three times through the toilet door of  Pistorius’ Pretoria home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

Pistorius said he thought she was a burglar and denies prosecution claims that they had an argument in the hours before the shooting.

Much of the case will depend on ballistic evidence from the scene of the shooting, correspondents say.

The arrest of the national sporting hero astounded South Africa.

The 27-year-old double amputee won gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and also competed at the Olympics.

As well as the charge of premeditated murder, Mr Pistorius also faces a charge of illegal possession of ammunition.