'SA courts must clarify social media laws'
Lawyer Emma Sadleir says the Oscar Pistorius social media ruling will impact other cases.
JOHANNESBURG - Laws surrounding the use of social media need urgent clarity, lawyer Emma Sadleir said on Monday.
Her comments come after Judge Thokozile Masipa on Monday ruled in favour of an application for all live broadcasts, including the use of Twitter, to be switched off for the duration of the testimony from state witness and pathologist Professor Gert Saayman in athlete Oscar Pistorius's murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Click here to listen to the entire application, submissions and ruling.
The Olympic and Paralympic athlete is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home on 14 February 2013.
ReevaSteenkamp. Picture: Carte Blanche.
The 27-year-old also faces gun-related charges.
Sadleir says while Monday's ruling is fascinating, the entire issue still needs urgent clarity.
"The judgment is just hopelessly unclear. We are not sure what's allowed and what's not allowed. Certainly, no audio is allowed, no television broadcast is allowed and no live tweeting is allowed. Now the only social media platform referred to by the judge was Twitter."
Sadleir confirmed this was the second time a South African court has banned live tweeting.
The first case where a ban on social media was enforced was the so-called Modimolle Monster case during rape victim Ian Bonnette's testimony.
Sadleir warns that special rules for particular cases could have wider implications.
"We need to be very careful that we're not making special rules for this case. These rules will be binding on cases that follow."
Veteran journalist Max du Preez has described the ruling as a "bad one".
He asked how delaying the information makes any kind of difference.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos has asked whether special rules are being applied because Pistorius is "famous and rich".
A number of people have also taken to social media to criticise Masipa's decision.
As if loadshedding from Eskom wasn't enough,Judge Masipa's hit us with 'courtshedding' #OscarPistorius
- Zibusiso Nkomo (@ZibusisoEsq) March 10, 2014
Does judge Masipa just make up these 'bans' as she goes along? Doesnt seem as if she puts much thought into it.
- Neavera Fillies (@Neavera) March 10, 2014
- Adenike Adekanle (@Nikkybubble1) March 10, 2014
- Katlego Maboe (@KatlegoMaboe) March 10, 2014
That awkward moment when Judge Masipa gets to the playground(Twitter) and tells us to go home, eat and comeback later. #OscarPistorius
- Sivuyile Nzimeni (@Thecomrade6) March 10, 2014
Judge Masipa and Saayman have let the public down. #OscarTrial
- Yise kaMbasa (@Mkhu28) March 10, 2014
I hope that Judge Masipa will review and reconsider her ruling of a ban on live tweeting at #OscarTrial as it has far reaching implications.
- Robyn Dixon (@latimesdixon) March 10, 2014
Judge Masipa's rules around reporting of #OscarPistorius trial appear to be stricter, less open than with other trials in South Africa
- Erin Conway-Smith (@ejcs) March 10, 2014