eNCA has apologised “unreservedly” to the court, the parties and witness Michelle Burger for publishing a photograph of Oscar Pistorius’ neighbour who is giving evidence in his murder trial.
The 24-hour news channel, during court testimony, showed a still photograph of Burger sourced from the University of Pretoria’s website.
“No disrespect was intended. 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” says Patrick Conroy, group head of news. “But, on reflection, this was a bad judgment call on our part and we accept that it did not accord with the spirit of the court order.”
Earlier, eNCA tweeted that it had received legal opinion before showing the photograph of Burger.
Conroy said eNCA would co-operate fully with any inquiry in this regard and deeply regrets the upset caused. “Justice Masipa has now issued a further order that no photos be published of any witnesses who do not want to appear on camera, regardless of the source of those photos. We are grateful for the clarity provided by this further order and we will obviously adhere to it fully,” Conroy added.
The Times newspaper, in an editorial, said it disagreed with Judge Thokozile Masipa’s decision arguing that in his ruling last week Judge Dunstan Mlambo said the trial ruled could be broadcast but that witnesses would be able to cut live visual coverage of their testimony. “In his judgment, Mlambo clearly and specifically restricted this control to ‘broadcast images’ from the courtroom,” the writer of the editorial said. “The objective was not to protect the identity of witnesses but to prevent them from being discomforted by having to testify before rolling cameras.”
The Times said Masipa’s ruling “appears to be an ill-considered extension of this control to all images of witnesses, even those already in the public domain.”
The trial was brought to a temporary halt by prosecutor Gerrie Nel when the photograph appeared on television screens. He said the matter needed to be investigated. The judge then ordered the media not to publish photographs “of any sort”. She said the media would note be “treated with soft gloves”.
In response, eNCA said it had been “at the forefront of working with the Judiciary for improved access to the courts. We would never consciously undermine our own efforts over the past 10 years. We should have been more cautious and sought clarity first. This has been an important lesson for everyone in terms of communication with the courts and the parties concerned.”
IMAGE: Screenshot from eNCA website.