S African TV News Fallout, Broadcast Pistorius trial witness photo

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Last week, South African TV news station eNCA apologized after showing a photo of a witness in the Oscar Pistorius trial. Pistorius is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He says he shot her accidentally, thinking she was an intruder.

The judge had previously ruled that witnesses who didn’t want to be on camera were allowed to retain their privacy by not being on camera  The media is allowed to air the audio testimony. Judge Thokozile Masipa, presiding over the Pistorius trial, said about the photo: “I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court,” CBS News reported.

At first eNCA defended the photo as not from the trial but just an image of witness Michelle Burger, Time reported.



But the outlet apologized in a statement published on document-sharing website Scribd and Twitter.


Oscar Pistorius Trial Statement by eNCA.com


In the statement, above, eNCA’s Group Head of News Patrick Conroy admitted it was a “bad judgment call.”

“No disrespect was intended,” Conroy said in his statement. “We did not understand the court order issued by Judge Mlambo to prevent this, we understood it only to apply to pictures taken of witnesses during the court proceedings.”  Mlambo ruled last month on the media coverage of the trial.

Conroy added that its publication of the photo “did not accord with the spirit of the court order” and will follow Justice Masipa’s order against publishing any photos of “witnesses who do not want to appear on camera.” The eNCA statement admits “we should have been more cautious and sought clarity first.”



News 24’s Jerusha Sukhdeo interviewed University of the Witwatersrang adjunct professor Franz Kruger about eNCA’s airing Burger’s photo and ethical issues related to covering the trial.

Kruger said, “There were objections raised in court and I think the view was taken that this was perhaps not a literal infringement of what had been ordered, but certainly broke the spirit of the order and so the eNCA television channel involved very quickly backed off, apologized and removed the image.”



Kruger commented that with this case, “the circumstances are really extraordinary.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen a court case that has such enormous, such a high profile internationally and domestically,” he said.

He added that news outlets should try to keep private information just that. “I think there is a responsibility to protect people’s…personal information,” he said.

This week in the trial, Justice Masipa ruled against letting the media live tweet or broadcast testimony related to Steenkamp’s autopsy, the New York Times reported. The judge had noted that it would be “explicitly graphic nature.”

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S African TV News Fallout, Broadcast Pistorius trial witness photo

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