Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2004-10-18 Reporter: Sapa

Media Rebuked at Shaik Trial






Date 2004-10-18


The media were called to order for "sensationalist" reporting as the Schabir Shaik trial entered its second week on Monday.

At the start of proceedings, prosecutor Billy Downer told Judge Hillary Squires that the weekend's Sunday Tribune had carried verbatim detail from a report on Shaik's company books that the prosecution commissioned from auditors KPMG.

This report was confidential and had not yet been introduced as evidence, he said.

"I would submit it is not in the interests of justice that such detail be leaked to the press or published," he said. "It tends to contravene the sub judice rule and prejudice both the state and defence."

Squires said he had not read the piece, but that if what Downer said was correct "then yes, what you say should not be done".

Editors should refrain from discussing evidence that could still be confidential and subject to "clarification and adjustment".

"I hope that the apprehensions expressed by the prosecutor will be taken to heart," he said.

Later in the day, Squires took action when a Radio 702 reporter's cellphone rang while the court was in session.

The reporter was initially unaware that it was his phone, in a bag at his feet, that was making the noise, and watched, along with the dozen or so other journalists, as police orderlies tried to pinpoint the noise.

"Would you mind taking that out of court," Squires said when the offender was identified, and the reporter left with his instrument.

The media had been warned at the start of the trial that ringing cellphones were liable to judicial confiscation for the rest of the trial.

Shaik himself also had a verbal brush with a reporter who he felt was sitting too close to him in the crowded courtroom to allow him to make private notes. He later apologised for his outburst.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.