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Justice system under spotlight thanks to Oscar

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South Africa’s justice system has come under increased scrutiny in media coverage over the past 18 months, principally driven by the Oscar Pistorius saga, a media analysis company said on Tuesday.

According to Media Tenor, the expected early release of Pistorius this month raised questions surrounding South Africa’s ability to bring about equality on matters of violence against women.

Theresa Lotter, Media Tenor managing director, said it also raised questions about “the capacity of the justice system to deliver legitimate sentencing to convicted criminals”.

The company analysed more than 2 000 media reports between January 2013 and July 2015 on Oscar Pistorius in “opinion-leading” South African media sets.

Murder trial

“For the last two years, coverage on Pistorius has been dominantly about his murder trial or the way in which the legal system has dealt with his court case,” the company said.

“His past achievements have not provided much of a buffer for the negative media attention he has received.”

Of the 2015 reports analysed, more than 1 250 were about court cases. The next leading topic was murder, at just under 250 reports.

“The media is reporting in a more direct way on high profile cases such as the Pistorius trial. This has impacted on the way South Africans view such subjects,” the company stated.

“This has direct implications for future cases of this nature since the media shape the perceptions of reality.”

Looking at the tonality of reporting on the justice system in 2014, 86% of reports had no clear tone, while 3% had a positive tone and 11% had a negative tone.

This changed markedly in 2015, up to and including August. Only 57% of reports had no clear tone, while 18% had a positive tone, and 25% a negative tone, Media Tenor said. News24

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