Woodward to accuse media TV

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The Independent Online
LOUISE WOODWARD is planning to take aim at the media and their coverage of her murder trial when she appears at a conference later this month.

Ms Woodward, who has made only selective public appearances and statements since returning from America, will appear at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to discuss the televising of trials and the impact of the media on criminal justice.

She will sit on a panel with her American lawyer, Barry Scheck, in a session to be chaired by Jenni Murray, the Woman's Hour presenter, on 31 August.

The festival's organisers said Woodward, who stands convicted of the manslaughter of baby Matthew Eappen, will not be paid for her role in the debate.

"I think she has things she wants to say to the media, and that's why she decided to come," said Ruth Pitt, Granada's head of documentaries and the festival advisory chair.

She added that Woodward had not dictated the terms of her appearance, and Mr Scheck would be there in his own right to express his opinions on the issue.

"Louise is a very sharp and self-assured young woman, and I think she made this decision for herself."

The circumstances of the case and the debate about Woodward's guilt would not form part of the session.

"In a sense, it's an irrelevance. We have gone past that and Louise isn't there to be put on trial by the media.

"The media is being put on trial by the session. We are asking ourselves how the media deal with these cases and how the British media may deal with these kind of cases if British trials are ever televised."

Ms Woodward's portrayal by both the British and American media has rollercoasted in the past year. When she was first arrested the Boston press effectively decided she was guilty, mainly on the basis of a supposed confession. Once her trial started the British media treated her as a victim of a defective foreign judicial system.

The American media also became supportive until her manslaughter sentence was reduced to the same amount of time she had already served.

In the UK the treatment of her release by the tabloid press depended on whether a newspaper thought it had access to her or if it thought she had sold her story to a rival.

Her only major interviews have been given to the newspaper her father works for in Liverpool and to Panorama's Martin Bashir.

Crucial in establishing sympathy for Ms Woodward was her appearance on satellite television during every day of the trial. While American audiences considered her cold when she was giving evidence, her anguished reaction to her original conviction for murder sparked a UK-wide campaign for her release. Sky News, which had the UK rights to the televised trial, quadrupled its audience during it.

Other controversial topics being covered by the television festival include a debate on documentary soaps and honesty in film-making. A number of popular and investigative documentaries have been accused this year of exaggeration and fabricating footage to spice up their content.

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