News / Africa

S. African Judge Rules to Partly Televise Pistorius Trial

FILE - South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appearing at Magistrate Court in Pretoria.
FILE - South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appearing at Magistrate Court in Pretoria.
Anita Powell
The trial of South Africa's most famous athlete, Oscar Pistorius, can be televised live, a judge ruled Tuesday.  South African journalists say they hope this ruling will open up the country's courts to media coverage.

Pistorius goes on trial next week in Pretoria for murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.  

He says he mistook his girlfriend of three months for an intruder in his Pretoria home; the prosecution claims he shot her intentionally.

Oscar Pistorius

  • Born without fibula bones
  • Legs amputated below the knee at 11 months
  • Ran with carbon fiber prosthetics that earned him nickname "Blade Runner"
  • In 2008, successfully appealed ban against competing in major competitions
  • Failed to qualify for Beijing Olympics
  • Won gold in 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters at 2008 Paralympics
  • In 2012, became first double-amputee to run in the Olympics
Pistorius shot to fame by being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, in 2012. He also has won a slew of medals at the Paralympic Games.

The confluence of celebrity, sex and sports contributed to a storm of media interest, with hundreds of journalists jockeying for just 80 seats inside the courtroom.  A South African station will launch a 24-hour channel dedicated solely to the case.

In a radical departure from normal procedure in South African courts, Judge Duncan Mlambo ruled Tuesday that parts of the trial may be televised live.  The request was brought to court by several prominent South African media houses.

Yusuf Abramjee, the head of news and current affairs for Primedia Broadcasting, said he was happy with the ruling.

“We obviously welcome the judge’s ruling.  It’s a victory for free speech, it’s a victory for media freedom, and it’s a victory for our constitution, which guarantees us the right to have access to our courts," Abramjee said.

The ruling comes with strict conditions.  Video cameras will be remotely manned from fixed positions, parts of the trial are off-limits, and witnesses can choose in advance to opt out of being televised.  

The ruling comes with strict conditions.  Video cameras will be remotely manned from fixed positions, parts of the trial are off-limits, and witnesses can choose in advance to opt out of being televised.  

Also, the camera will not be allowed to focus on Pistorius himself, even when he testifies.  For pictures of Pistorius during the proceedings, TV stations will have to rely on a courtroom sketch artist.  Photos of him will be allowed only when the judge is not seated.

Despite the limitations, Abramjee says this trial is just the beginning.  South Africa’s boisterous media has previously attempted, with little success, to film other high-profile trials, such as those of President Jacob Zuma, who was tried and cleared on charges of corruption and rape.

Abramjee says Judge Mlambo's ruling is a "final step" to ensuring courts are open to the media.

“Obviously the Oscar Pistorius trial is something different -- it’s no ordinary case, he’s a high-profile international figure and this is why we are having the world’s interest," Abramjee noted. "But most certainly it’s going to the future.  This will open the door for us to go and broadcast similar cases with high public-profile interest, and we believe that it’s the beginning of a change of the judiciary and its access to the public going into the future.”

The trial begins Monday, with millions of people around the world tuning in, live.

  • Oscar Pistorius's lawyers Barry Roux (L) and Brian Webber prepare documents before the start of the application to appeal some of his bail conditions at a Pretoria court, March 28, 2013.
  • State prosecutor Gerrie Nel prepares for a hearing in the Pretoria, South Africa high court, March 28, 2013.
  • February 22, 2013: Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria, South Africa for his bail hearing.
  • Relatives of Oscar Pistorius hug each other ahead of proceedings at the Pretoria magistrates court February 22, 2013.
  • Reeva Steenkamp's casket arrives ahead of her funeral ceremony in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, February 19, 2013.
  • Feb. 19, 2013: Carl Pistorius, right, and Henke Pistorius, the brother and father of Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend attend Oscar's bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa.
  • Investigating officer Hilton Botha, the lead detective in the Pistorius murder case, during a break in proceedings, February 21, 2013.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs