Accomplished at the age of 26, Reeva Steenkamp, a South African role model, law graduate and celebrity met the end of her life tragically on Valentines Day, 14 February 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. The man accused of her murder faces the full force of the law, but nothing can replace the loss felt by Reeva Steenkamp’s grieving family and the many South Africans who loved and admired her.
The High Court’s ruling that Reeva Steenkamp’s murder trial be broadcasted across international media has shocked the Steenkamp family and left them feeling let down by the South African justice system. But at more than R20000 (US$ 2200) per minute, this trial has become an international ‘media gold rush,’ securing a 24-hour broadcasting channel for a minute-by-minute update on events as they happen. Can there be any doubt that money played a factor in the decision to go public with broadcasting this trial?
Already the media have labeled proceedings “The Oscar Pistorius trial” comparable to the 2006 trial of retired American Football player O.J. Simpson. Then too, the profile of the perpetrator was scandalously doted upon while the victim remained just that. Nicole Brown Simpson is scarcely known today, except by those who remember “The Trial of O.J. Simpson.”
Twitter and Facebook were absent at the trial of OJ Simpson, but today, there is an opportunity to counteract the flow of information by power structures that would emphasize trial over tribute. Whether you blog, tweet or text, individuals have demonstrated their ability to transform news content and to shift the balance of power from multinational media companies to humble mobile phone users.
The global gluttony for scandal will always follow celebrity and high-profile personalities. But the tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp should not be reduced to tabloid smears focusing on the accused. Allow the law to judge Oscar Pistorius, but thank social media for the platform to #RememberReeva Steenkamp and her family.