Dignity in the Digital Age: Broadcasting the Oscar Pistorius Trial
Crime, Media, Culture, 2018
31 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018
Date Written: June 20, 2018
Oscar Pistorius was tried for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp in South Africa in 2014. His trial was broadcast live, after media agencies applied to the court for comprehensive access to the courtroom. The decision to broadcast the trial followed a careful and deliberative court ruling about the constitutional principles of human dignity, freedom and equality. South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution provides a framework for achieving social transformation, and open justice plays an important role in it. Despite concerns about sensationalism and voyeurism, the broadcast of the Pistorius trial functioned as a constitutional experiment. This article evaluates the principles and practices of open justice in South Africa through the broadcast of the Pistorius trial, and the roles played by the media, the courts and the public. It identifies significant events during the trial, including its reporting, which had the effect of testing the compatibility of open justice, on the one hand, and the proper administration of justice, on the other. The right of an accused to a fair trial, at times, confronted the sensitivities of the victim’s family, the rights of the media and the demands of the public to witness justice being done. This article examines the tangled relationship between dignity and justice, compounded by the technologies of digital media, in the unique context of post-apartheid South Africa.
Keywords: criminal trials, dignity, open justice, Oscar Pistorius, South Africa, Ubuntu
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