Media hail ‘groundbreaking’ Oscar ruling

A high court today ruled that media houses would be allowed to broadcast the Oscar Pistorius trial.

FILE: Oscar Pistorius in court on charges of murdering his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - Media houses on Tuesday hailed a court judgment allowing Oscar Pistorius's murder trial to be televised as a victory for open justice and freedom of expression.

In a precedent-setting ruling, the high court in Pretoria earlier permitted the audio broadcast of the full trial as well as video of certain portions.

The ruling followed an application brought last week by several media houses, including MultiChoice and Eyewitness News .

The high-profile athlete will go on trial on Monday for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp a year ago.

While Pistorius claims the shooting was a case of mistaken identity, the state will argue it was murder.

The 'Blade Runner' is also facing other charges relating to firearms.

Pistorius trains for track and field Olympic events, London, 29 July 2012. Picture: Marc Lewis/EWN.

MEDIA CELEBRATE VICTORY

Carte Blanche Executive producer George Mazarakis says the court granted exactly what was being sought.

"It's a seminal moment. It's a precedent-setting judgment. I think it's the beginning of new things for the media in South Africa. It's the maturing of the democracy."

EWN Editor-in-Chief Katy Katopodis says the ruling is a special victory.

"This is groundbreaking - for the media, for the judiciary. We're going into completely new territory now."

On Twitter, there was a mixed reaction to the ruling.

The trial must be covered ethically no sensationalism or half truths.all people deserve a fair trial,not by media but by a judge #OscarMedia

People are going to be more insensitive to this trial with some parts being broadcasted, I'm a little bit scared #OscarMedia

#OscarMedia we're at the stage in this saga where Oscar's spin doctors will not have a monopoly on information flow. They must be scared.

The ratings they are going to get..too much money #OscarMedia

Maybe the public will also have more respect for court reporters if they realise how staggeringly boring court proceedings can be #Pistorius

" @Abramjee: Today's judgment is victory for open justice. #OscarMedia". Open justice to who coz all interested parties shall be present.

JUDGE EXPLAINS DECISION

Judge Dunstan Mlambo found that allowing media access to the proceedings would not infringe upon Pistorius's right to a fair trial.

He said to accede to Pistorius's objections in its entirety would undermine the objectives of the principle of open justice, referring to sections of the Constitution.

"Court proceedings are in fact public. The basis for this is that courts of law exercise public power over citizens and it is important that proceedings be open as this encourages public understanding as well as accountability."

Mlambo said he also considered the significant local and global interest in the trial.

He says he felt that televising it provided more people access to proceedings, which would otherwise be logistically impossible to attend.

But the judge warned that Pistorius's objection to him and some of his witnesses being televised should not be taken lightly.

There is no indication at this stage whether Pistorius will appeal the ruling.