Oscar Trial: autopsy evidence may not be broadcast live

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius puts his hands over his head, in the dock during his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, March 10, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

PRETORIA - Court resumed after a break this morning with Judge Thokozile Masipa ruling that Professor Gert Saayman’s evidence relating to the post mortem conducted on the body of Reeva Steenkamp may not be broadcast live.

Saayman, a pathologist from the Medico Legal Laboratory in Pretoria, argued that his evidence would be graphic and could be considered too sensitive and possibly harmful if it was delivered to the public in its raw form.

He asked that his evidence not be live-streamed and rather reported in a controlled and responsible manner.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said he had already argued with regard to the dignity and respect of the deceased.

Arguing on behalf of the media, Advocate Nick Ferreira said this was a groundbreaking case and that all issues should be carefully considered.

Regarding the actual broadcasting, he said his clients accepted that this was an unusual trial with legitimate concerns, with the role of the media being to educate and inform the public and not to sensationalise evidence.

He said it had always been the position that no exhibits would be broadcast – this included the post mortem photographs.

Ferreira  added that it  be proposed that the live feed of the audio stream of the evidence of the pathologist be cut and that a summarized version be made public afterwards. This would ensure that issues of sensitivity could also not be raised at a later stage.

It would also protect the dignity of the deceased and respect the principles of open justice and freedom of expression.

Defence Advocate Kenny Oldwage said he agreed with the submission of Professor Saayman, and maintained that the respect and dignity of Reeva Steenkamp be upheld by banning the live broadcasting of his evidence.

Nel also agreed with this. He made it clear that the State was not calling for the removal of journalists from court, or reporting on the testimony – merely that the live broadcast be halted.

He said if a compromise order was a possibility, that there be strict conditions applied. But his first submission was that there be no broadcasting of the entire testimony.

“Filtered, paraphrased, summarized – we don’t have a problem (with reports on the evidence). Just not the live broadcast,” Nel said.

Ferreira submitted that the media could compile a package of the evidence for broadcast by this evening and that this be offered to the state and defence for approval. This would then be broadcast at a later stage.

“If there is a deadlock, there will be no broadcast,” Ferreira said.

Judge Masipa said her final ruling was that the evidence of the pathologist may not be broadcast live, no audio streaming was allowed and there would be no live tweeting.

The compromise proposed by Ferreira was one she would consider at a later stage, and would give her ruling on this on Tuesday.

eNCA earlier took a decision not to broadcast the testimony, regardless of the ruling.


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