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By unknown | Mar 11, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

Freelance journalist Lin Sampson has been subpoenaed to testify for the defence in the murder trial of Superintendent Marius van der Westhuizen, charged with shooting his three children.

Organisations representing journalists and campaigners championing freedom of expression have long fought against dragging journalists into court to testify on matters they cover.

"To compel a journalist to testify against participants in events that she was covering . inhibits the free flow of information and has the additional effect of placing the safety of journalists at risk," Jane Duncan, executive director of the Freedom Of Expression Institute, said yesterday.

Sampson interviewed Van der Westhuizen's wife Charlotte shortly after the shootings. Charlotte, a police captain, told the journalist that her husband was a depressed "control freak" who shot their three children to harm her.

"He wanted me to have a life sentence, and believe me he got his way," Sampson's story in the magazine Marie Claire quoted the wife saying.

The sordid trial has gripped Cape Town for weeks. Van der Westhuizen pleaded guilty but claimed he suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress, and said he could not remember the events.

The state refused to accept his explanation and entered a plea of not guilty.

His advocate, Milton de la Harpe, told Sampson she would only have to testify that she wrote the article. But she says when she met him he tried to put words in her mouth.


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