News / Africa

Pistorius Trial Judge Notes Pitfalls of Media Attention

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (C) leaves after his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 4, 2014.
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius (C) leaves after his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 4, 2014.
Anita Powell
The murder trial of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius has attracted unprecedented media attention. The coverage of the story, however, has not been without problems.

Pistorius' closely watched murder trial is the first major South African criminal trial to be broadcast live from within the courtroom.
 
The trial is being played on local radio stations and two South African news providers have started a cable channel dedicated entirely to the case.

But critics say the media attention has had significant issues. Among the critics is the trial's judge, Thokozile Masipa.

On day two of proceedings, Masipa lashed out at local media for publishing a photo of a witness who did not give broadcasters permission to film her testimony. In doing so, Masipa showed while that she may talk very softly, she carries a big stick.

“I must say this is very disturbing, I am warning the media if you do not behave you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court,” she said.

Media mistake

University of the Witwatersrand journalism professor Anton Harber said the media outlets, including a prominent TV news station that ran a photo of witness Michelle Burger on screen along with her testimony, made a mistake.

"I think it was very foolish of the media to run a picture of the witness when it is clear that courts were trying to protect her. I think technically they may not have been in breach of the rules and regulations, but they were certainly in breach of the spirit, and that is a rather silly thing to do when the judge has her finger hovering over the control button for public broadcast," said Harber.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day, 2013. He said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her four times through a locked bathroom door.

In its first two days, the state has tried to use the testimony of Pistorius' neighbors and circumstantial evidence to discredit his story. Each time, defense lawyer Barry Roux has methodically tried to pick apart the witnesses .

Varying levels of professionalism

Harber said this level of skill and detail, though, is not typical.

“Well, this is representative of the best of South African justice, when media scrutiny and lots of money means everyone’s on their best behavior and have all the resources they need. But this is rich man’s justice in a country where, in most cases, and cases of this sort are not unusual in South Africa, the defense, and often the accusers, would often have no defense, the prosecutor would often be overworked and underprepared, and you never know about the behavior of the judge or magistrate," said Harber.

To see that, one need look no further than the Pretoria High Court.

Court GD, where Pistorius is being tried, is a hive of media activity. Reporters madly type in the packed media seats. Photographers lurk outside the courtroom. Across the street, media organizations have erected a virtual tent camp.  

But just down the hall, a court has been listening for months to the wrenching tale of Zanele Khumalo. Her's is a common  tale in South Africa, where a woman is killed every eight hours by her intimate partner.

Zanele was 18 and five months pregnant. Her 26-year-old boyfriend and father of that unborn child, Thato Kutumela, was found guilty in January of raping and murdering her in 2011.

The case has dragged on for more than two years since then. On Thursday, Kutumela is due to be sentenced in the High Court.

No one expects the case or the verdict to garner much attention. The eyes of the world will be looking just down the hall, at Oscar Pistorius.

  • Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, April 14, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 10, 2014.
  • Jane Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp's mother is comforted by a relative after her dead daughter's picture was shown on screen during the trial of Oscar Pistorius at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 9, 2014.
  • Family members, including uncle Arnold Pistorius, right, cry as they listen to Oscar Pistorius testifying in court in Pretoria, April 8, 2014.
  • Oscar Pistorius becomes emotional during his trial at the high court in Pretoria, April 7, 2014.
  • Members of the public crowd around Oscar Pistorius as he leaves the high court, Pretoria, March 12, 2014.

  • Oscar Pistorius cries as he prays with his sister Aimee and brother Carl at his indictment at the magistrates court in Pretoria, August 19, 2013.
  • This aerial image taken from video provided by VNS24/7 shows the home of Oscar Pistorius in a gated housing complex in Pretoria, Feb. 14, 2013.
  • Olympian runner Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Jan. 26, 2013.
  • Oscar Pistorius celebrates winning the men's 400 meter final during the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Sept. 8, 2012.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Roy Devenish from: Pretoria
March 06, 2014 5:47 AM
Pretoria News has, in fact, carried substantial reports on the Khumalo case during the course of the trial. To the best of my knowledge the case is adjourned until Friday for judgment.


by: Micheal Wade from: Puerto Rico
March 04, 2014 12:24 PM
Why did he shoot 4 times! When he shot once it sounds like she was screaming to tell him it was her in the bathroom! Something is wrong with his side of events!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid