My blurb in the Economist on the decision to bar the cameras from Mubarak’s trial:
I don’t know what the judge’s rationale was, but it’s a pity. People everywhere really need to have an idea of what a criminal trial is like — why there’s a burden of proof, why you go through all the procedures, why the conclusions you draw from reading the papers don’t necessarily equate to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Okay, even in highly courtroom-literate societies, not everyone is going to fully wrap their heads around the idea of “burden of proof”, and why you protect the rights of the accused — witness the backlash against the Casey Anthony acquittal. But in Egypt, which has no tradition of televised trials, the idea that you need to go through extensive rigorous procedures, evaluating evidence, to pronounce someone guilty of an offense, is still pretty tenuous.
So, TV = good, when it comes to courtroom procedure. Judge Rifaat’s ruling is a real pity.
However, in addition to the TV issue, Egyptian trials are hard to follow on their own terms. Lots of key evidence is presented primarily in written form, so you don’t have the “reading into the record” which makes US trials comparably easy to follow. I think this is a problem with the French court trial system in general, not just Egypt’s version thereof.