PRETORIA – The broadcasting of a photograph of the state’s first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has been described as an “honest mistake” by the news channel which aired it.
The trial was halted for a few minutes when state prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court that eNCA was showing Michelle Burger’s face.
During the adjournment, eNCA Group Head of News Patrick Conroy defended the use of the image via Twitter.
An earlier court order allowed her to object to having her face shown on live television, which she had requested.
Judge Thokozile Masipa has since granted a new order to further protect witnesses and gave the media a stern warning.
“I must say, this is very disturbing. I am warning the media that if you don’t behave, you aren’t going to be treated with soft gloves by this court.”
She also ordered an investigation be conducted.
The photograph of Burger wasn’t taken in court and technically wasn’t necessarily covered by the earlier broadcasting order.
But Wits University journalism professor Anton Harber says it was a case of flying too close to the wind, given that the judge’s finger hovers over the live broadcast switch.
“I can’t see how it is either sensible or wise or in the public interest to publish photos of the witness.”
Conroy says the photo went against the spirit of the earlier broadcasting order.
“This was an honest mistake. We do not feel we were in violation of the court order but now that the judge has made it clear that even publically accessible images are not to be broadcast, we will abide by that.”