Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2004-10-06 Reporter:

To TV or Not to TV



Cape Argus

Date 2004-10-06

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Will it be a case of lights, cameras and justice?

What a difficult decision for Judge Hillary Squires to take at the start of Schabir Shaik's hearing.

There is much to be said for the role of television in educating the public about the judicial process. Some American courts have even recognised this as an extension of the right to freedom of speech.

But are we ready for gavel-to-gavel coverage of one of the pivotal cases for our crack investigative unit, the Scorpions, and the government in general?

Those opposing the live broadcast of judicial proceedings say it serves a purpose only if it is done in full.

Ever sat through five days of cross-examination of a forensic auditor? Most viewers will not have done so, and are likely to rely on edited versions which could misrepresent the facts. In the US, there has been a further backlash against television coverage of cases, with judges saying it diminishes the dignity of the court.

The New York Bar Association found that 35% of attorneys said the atmosphere was uneasy when TV was present, 56% of defence attorneys felt the fairness of the trial was affected, and 19% of witnesses admitted to being distracted.

When Judge Edwin King refused to have evidence before his commission into corruption in South African cricket broadcast, the Cape High Court was asked to rule if he was correct. Three judges decided that he was not.

Now, for the first time there is an application before a High Court to broadcast a criminal trial. To quote Dennis Davis, another judge and former presenter of the TV programme Future Imperfect : "You be the judge."

With acknowledgement to the Cape Argus.