Oscar’s trial by media: the legalities

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What do President Jacob Zuma and Oscar Pistorius have in common?

In both their cases, the courts commented on the potentially harmful impact of publicity about the case on the administration of justice.

When judge Willem van der Merwe acquitted Zuma on a charge of rape in 2006, he said: “I have no problem with fair comment and the media’s duty to keep the public informed of important matters, especially the case we are dealing with at present. …What, however, is disconcerting, is the fact that some pressure groups, organisations and individuals found the accused guilty and others found him not guilty in their comments on the case, without knowing what the evidence is and long before all the evidence was presented.”

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Looser muzzle

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I wrote this article on the Protection of State Information Bill, more commonly known as the Secrecy Bill, for the Financial Mail.

The Protection of State Information Bill, also known as the “secrecy bill”, awaits President Jacob Zuma’s signature before it becomes law. It has followed a tortuous parliamentary route over the past five years, and the various substantive changes that have been made bear testimony to the power of participatory democracy.

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Freedom of expression loses in Swaziland case

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I wrote this article on freedom of expression in Swaziland for the Mail & Guardian.

In April 2013, the Swaziland High Court handed down a decision with grave implications for freedom of expression. The Nation magazine, an independent publisher, and its editor Bheki Makhubu were found guilty of the crime of contempt of court, fined 400 000 emalangeni (about ZAR 400 000), and ordered to pay half of the fine within three days of the decision or be imprisoned for two years.

Aside from an immediate prison sentence, it is difficult to contemplate a sanction more chilling to freedom of expression. It is important to understand whether the high court was justified in imposing this extremely harsh penalty.

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Bosasa Operations (Pty) Ltd v Adriaan Basson and M&G Media Limited

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On 26 April 2012 Judge Tsoka delivered judgment in the matter of Bosasa Operations (Pty) Ltd v Adriaan Basson and M&G Media Limited, in which the Webber Wentzel media team successfully represented the Mail & Guardian. Continue reading

Presidency ordered to disclose Khampepe Report

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I wrote this article on the presidency being ordered to disclose Khampepe report for the Webber Wentzel Media Newsletter. Continue reading