Media restrictions for pathologist testimony

The judge has ruled that testimony by the pathologist may not be broadcast or tweeted.

Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria on 10 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - Judge Thokozile Masipa has ruled in favour of an application for all live broadcasts including the use of Twitter, to be switched off for the duration of testimony from pathologist Professor Gert Saayman.

Saayman performed the post-mortem on Reeva Steenkamp.


While addressing the court, Saayman strongly objected to his testimony being broadcasted.

But he did say some of it may be made public in a controlled manner.

He added that the live coverage could impinge upon or harm the rights of the relatives of the deceased.

"The very personal findings of an autopsy and the graphic details have potential to compromise the dignity of the deceased. It goes against the good morals of society to make information of this nature available."

Making a submission on behalf of the media, advocate Nick Ferreira said it had always been the position of the media that no exhibits be broadcasted.

"The media propose that the live audio and visual feed be cut, but the testimony be recorded."

He said the broadcast media proposed that there be no live broadcast either of audio or images during Saayman's testimony.

"We do ask that we can record the evidence and then summarise it for broadcast. This will be done in cooperation with the witness, counsel and the judge, if My Lady so wishes."

Click here to listen to the entire application, submissions and ruling.

On behalf of the defence team, advocate Kenny Oldwage made his submission.

"Advocate Ferreira makes no mention of the dignity of the deceased and her family."

He said the media were asking for freedom of expression, but part of that right was to ensure that the public at large is educated as to the conduct of the courts.

"I submit that Saayman's objection to the broadcasting of his evidence is given with good reason, and with respect to his patient [Steenkamp]."

Finally, Oldwage addressed the problem of social media, such as Twitter.

He said this was not mentioned by the media's lawyers and should also be discussed properly.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he agreed with Oldwage that it was not fair to broadcast the evidence.

But he says they certainly were not asking for journalists to be removed or barred from reporting on the evidence.

"We have to agree with Mr Ferreira that it may be that some of the content of the evidence may be fit for summarised broadcast after the fact."

He told the judge that the media would need to present the court with a package of what they want to show.

"If there's a compromise, there must be strict conditions. That is our request."

Nel also agreed with Oldwage on multimedia such as Twitter.

"If we prohibit radio and television of carrying the evidence, it should be across all media."


Earlier, when launching the application, Nel said Saayman's testimony would be extremely graphic.

"This is not an issue of media freedom, but about the rights and dignity of the deceased. Thus it will not be right for the whole wide world to hear."

The application was strongly supported by Oscar Pistorius's defence team.

Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: Carte Blanche


Previous witness Pieter Baba, who is a security guard at Silver Woods Country Estate, was cross-examined by defence advocate Barry Roux.

Pieter Baba during his testimony.

Roux said the records all demonstrated that Pistorius first called security, and security then returned the call.

"I called Mr Pistorius and he told me that everything is fine. But I realised that he was crying. Before I could speak more, the line went dead. A few seconds afterwards, he called me. He didn't speak, he was just crying. The line went dead again."

Roux argued that Pistorius told security 'he' was fine and not 'everything' was fine.

Baba then read his statement into the record, "When I asked whether everything was fine, he said he was okay."

Roux then immediately pointed out what he said in the statement was significant.

"He said that he was okay."

Roux concluded, and Nel conducted a quick re-examination before Baba was excused.

Baba initially testified he was so shocked by what he had seen, he could remember certain details.

On Friday, Baba said the athlete called him back by accident and he could hear Pistorius crying on the other end of the phone.

Roux referred to Baba's first statement to the police, suggesting that Pistorius had actually told security that he was okay.

Before proceedings ended on Friday, Baba insisted that his version of events was correct.

Pistorius arrives at court on 10 March 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

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