The media circus is in town for the bail hearing of Oscar Pistorius. The unprecedented interest in the murder case, in which Pistorius is accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has seen media from around the globe descend on the Pretoria where Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair is presiding over proceedings.
But it’s not just the media scrum within the courtroom that has made headlines, but also issues out of it. The BBC was forced to issue an apology for its insensitive playing of the Jimi Hendrix song ‘Hey Joe’ just after a news update on Pistorius case. The lyrics go, “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand? I’m going out to shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messing around with another man”.
“In light of the nature of the news story, we apologise for any offence caused by the proximity of the song ‘Hey Joe’ to the bulletin. An on-air apology was made immediately the mistake was realised,” said a BBC spokesperson.
In another incident, The Star published an OUTsurance ad showing a pair of legs from the waist down with the left leg “missing” from the knee down, with the text of the advertisement shaped to fill in the “missing” portion of the leg. The ad was place right next to a Pistorius story. It’s payoff line? ““Do you have the right insurance cover should your life suddenly change?”
OUTSurance was quick to apologise for offence caused. “This particular advertisement was created by our internal design team in October 2012 as a part of a print campaign highlighting our disability benefits. The advertisement was supplied to The Star newspaper at midday on Thursday 14 February as part of our normal course of business,” it said in a statement.
“The front page of the Star on Tuesday 19 February was dominated by the unfortunate events surrounding double amputee Oscar Pistorius. We did not foresee the potential light in which the advertisement could be interpreted. While we were aware that the chosen advertisement would appear on the front page of the newspaper, we neither could have predicted, nor instructed the newspaper to particularly use it alongside the headline story they chose to publish.”
Magistrate Nair has been forced to issue instructions to media following the scrum at the hearing on Tuesday. A late-evening series of rules for behaviour in court was issued to the press following the explosive events that took place in the courtroom during Tuesday’s proceedings.
“Due to the overwhelming interest shown by the media in the bail hearing of Mr Oscar Pistorius, the Court has deemed it necessary to put in place a media accreditation process for the continued bail application hearing,” the statement said.
The Magistrate’s Court Judiciary said that as a result of limited space in the courtroom, and in terms of “general safety precautions”, media would now be required to register and be accredited before being allowed access.
Only one journalist per media house will be allowed, and photographers will be limited to taking pictures at the beginning of the proceedings before being “escorted to the overflow area where they will view the rest of the proceedings”. The court has instructed that no photographs will be taken during proceedings, while Chief Magistrate Nair is still seated.
Journalists must be seated 30 minutes before proceedings start “for purposes of setting up and seating” and “access cards should be carried at all times to allow for access to the main court”. Press cards will be checked when entering court.
“Media will be allocated seats in the main court, as well as in the overflow area where there will be closed circuit TV broadcasting the proceedings,” said the statement, issued by Lulama Luti, director of media relations.