Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-10-13 Reporter: Nicola Jenvey

No Live Shaik TV but Highlights May Get Coverage



Business Day

Date 2004-10-13


Nicola Jenvey

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Durban - Judge Hillary Squires yesterday threw out free-to-air broadcaster's application to broadcast live the trial of Schabir Shaik, but in a precedent- setting judgment he left the door open for live coverage of closing arguments and the judgment.

The ruling clears the way for the trial to start in earnest today . said it would study the judgment and consider whether to launch a Constitutional Court challenge.

In his ruling, Squires ranked the privacy of witnesses and Shaik's right to a fair trial above those of the public's right to information. He said he had "no objection" to part of the proceedings being televised if all parties agreed.

Squires said he believed witnesses would be inhibited by television cameras and by the knowledge that their answers were being broadcast nationally and internationally. This would both hinder Shaik's right to a free trial and the individual witnesses' rights to privacy.

The judge said when any witness was inhibited or dissuaded from disclosing the facts because of the presence of a video camera questions would be raised about the fairness of a trial.

He said these rights would still be compromised if filmed the daily proceedings from which to compile an edited half-hour slot each evening. However, Squires did not prohibit the electronic media broadcasting events outside the courtroom or information gathered by journalists during the proceedings.

Although Squires' ruling will clear the way for the start of the trial, further legal sideshows are threatening to play themselves out at the high-profile case, in which Shaik is accused of soliciting bribes for Deputy President Zuma in return for political favours and protection.

One such hurdle is the possible violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act if two prominent MPs fail to get Parliament's approval to testify. They are former head of Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) Gavin Woods and Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

Woods has been asked to testify on a letter written by Zuma to him when he still chaired Scopa regarding the arms deal, while De Lille alleged underhand dealings under parliamentary privilege.

Woods received permission to testify from previous speaker Frene Ginwala but chief parliamentary legal adviser Eshaam Palmer yesterday insisted the current Parliament and its office bearers were not bound by these decisions.

Palmer said Woods would have to ask permission of speaker Baleka Mbete or the house to give evidence in court about parliamentary documents.

With acknowledgements to Nicola Jenvey and the Business Day.