Today marks the 11th day of the historic court case that is occupying the thoughts of the world, as Oscar Pistorious’ trial continues. But more than one battle rages. The Right to Freedom of the Media is up against the Right to a Fair trial, thus far the media are in the lead, but we must ask what is at stake?
Is it truly fair that in Big Brother fashion we are allowed access to the inner sanctum of the courthouse? How ethical is it to make daytime television out of a young man’s potential demise and the repeated invoking of the death of a young woman? This is the Hunger Games live on screen, and yes there is blood and gore, nauseating amounts thereof.
Last year on the 14th of February, Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead. It sent shockwaves across the country and around the world due to Pistorious’s pioneering infamy in the world of paralympic sports. It took hours for the South African who had been known for his athletic feats to become synonymous with accusations of murder.
Friends disowned him and the public shut their hearts to him, it was social expulsion on a grandiose scale. He has admitted to shooting and ultimately killing Reeva but the issue now at stake is the intention. This is what the State are now trying to prove in court, that our South African hero turned into a cold blooded murderer.
In South Africa the witnesses are not isolated from social media and technology to ensure their testimonies are not influenced and this is therefore one of the biggest challenges to a fair trial.
Whilst it is almost inevitable that we are given unprecedented access to the case, witness by witness, the integrity of the evidence is open to debate given the saturation of newsfeeds with unverified accounts and conjecture. Slicing through the fog of testimony, both levied and background, will be no easy task.
One of the most shocking parts of the trial was thankfully not aired due to its sensitivity, but pictures emerged of Oscar being physically sick. There he sat listening to the pathologists report, hurling his stomach contents into a measly bucket. We forget how gruesome this was, perhaps because we are all so used to CSI and such programmes that somehow cauterize the wound in our minds as part of a bigger plot. But when it comes to the real thing, no script can come close to this hard reality.
For me this case is as sensational as any reality programme, as here a young man is fighting for his life, his honour, his dignity, whilst being paraded in front of the baying cameras of 24 hour rolling news and discussion panels.
I hope that by offering the media almost unrestricted rights we do not forget that a man’s rights are at risk too and that we ensure he is afforded a fair trial.