South Africa's Debut into Broadcasting Criminal Trials – The Legal Arguments in Televising the Oscar Pistorius Trail


  • Alison Amanda James Advocate of the High Court of South Africa



Oscar Pistorius, Criminal trial, Television broadcasting, Constitutional rights, Public interest, Administration of justice, Freedom of the press, Fair trial


The televising and/or any other form of broadcasting of judicial hearings and of criminal trials in particular is a controversial topic that has not only provoked debate and been argued about by academics, the media and the public for years, but continues to be argued about with few signs of abatement. Until recently South Africa had largely escaped becoming embroiled in this provocative topic, as the live broadcasting of criminal trials from South African courtrooms did not occur. The situation has changed, though, following the recent live televising of a full criminal trial – namely, the trial of South African Para-Olympic champion Oscar Pistorius. Given that this trial signalled South Africa's debut into the world of the live televising of criminal trial proceedings, the question is asked why exactly South Africa ventured into this contentious legal territory.
It must be emphasised that the intention of this contribution is solely to explore the court's consideration of the constitutional mandates and rights that were contained in both the application and the opposing arguments pertaining to the live broadcast the trial of Oscar Pistorius. This note will not attempt to examine or even approach the far greater question of whether criminal trials should be televised or not, a topic better left to future research.


Google_Scholar_94.png    ScienceOpen_Log0332.png


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Blackstone Laws of England

Blackstone W Commentaries on the Laws of England 1765-1769 (Clarendon Press Oxford 1770)

DOFORSA Rule of Law

Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa South Africa and the Rule of Law (Government Printers Pretoria 1968)

Jaconelli Open Justice

Jaconelli J Open Justice: A Critique of the Public Trial (Oxford University Press Oxford 2002)

James Open Court

James AAW Open Court Versus Public Trial: An Analysis of the Constitutional Distinction in South African Criminal Procedure (LLM-dissertation University of South Africa 2016)

Melikan Trial in History Vol II

Melikan RA Trial in History, Volume II - Domestic and International Trials, 1700–2000 (Manchester University Press Manchester 2003)

Mulholland and Pullan Trial in History Vol I

Mulholland MM and Pullan B Trial in History, Volume I - Judicial Tribunals in England and Europe, 1200–1700 (Manchester University Press Manchester 2003)

Smith 1997 Law & Psychol Rev

Smith T "The Distortion of Criminal Trials through Televised Proceedings" 1997 Law & Psychol Rev 258-269

Case law

Dotcom Trading 121 (Pty) Ltd v King 2000 4 SA 973 (C)

Ex p Doyle 1917 2 KB 254

Freedom of Expression Inst v President, Ordinary Court Martial 1999 1 SACR 353 (C)

Khumalo v Holomisa 2002 5 SA 401 (CC)

Media 24 Limited v National Director of Public Prosecutions, In re S v Van Breda 2017 ZAWCHC 36 (27 March 2017)

Midi Television Pty Ltd v Director of Public Prosecutions (WC) 2007 5 SA 540 (SCA)

Midi Television (Pty) Ltd v Downer 2004 ZAKZHC 15 (12 October 2004)

Multichoice (Pty) Ltd v National Prosecuting Authority, In Re; S v Pistorius, In Re; Media 24 Ltd v Director of Public Prosecutions North Gauteng 2014 1 SACR 589 (GP)

Re Bushell 1670 124 ER 1006

S v Makwanyane 1995 3 SA 391 (CC)

S v Mamabolo 2001 3 SA 409 (CC)

S v Pistorius 2014 ZAGPPHC 793 (12 September 2014)

S v Shaik 2007 1 SACR 142 (D)

SABC v Downer and Shaik 2007 1 All SA 384 (SCA)

SABC v National Director of Public Prosecutions 2007 1 SA 523 (CC)

SABC v Thatcher 2005 4 All SA 353 (C)

South African National Defence Union v Minister of Defence 1999 4 SA 469 (CC)


Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Criminal Law Amendment Act 105 of 1997

Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977

Defence Act 44 of 1957

Military Discipline Code (MDC) - First Schedule to the Defence Act 44 of 1957

Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act 16 of 1999

International instruments

Æthelred Wantage Code 997 AD

Constitutions of Clarendon 1166

Constitution of the United States of America

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789 (Fr)

European Convention on Human Rights (1950)

Magna Carta 1297 c 9

Petition of Right, 1628

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Internet sources

Anonymous 2014

Anonymous 2014 Oscar Pistorius Trial: Some Witnesses Refused to Testify accessed 14 March 2015

Stats SA 2011

P030142011.pdfStatistics South Africa 2011 Census accessed 18 May 2015



How to Cite

James, A. A. (2017). South Africa’s Debut into Broadcasting Criminal Trials – The Legal Arguments in Televising the Oscar Pistorius Trail. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20, 1–21.