Johannesburg - eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) apologised on Tuesday on its website for using a picture of a witness during the live broadcast of Oscar Pistorius's murder trial.
“This morning during court testimony by State witness Michelle Burger, eNCA showed a still photo of Ms Burger which was sourced from the University of Pretoria’s website,” the group's head of news Patrick Conroy said in a statement published on the site.
“eNCA unreservedly apologises to the court, the parties and Michelle Burger for this unfortunate incident. No disrespect was intended. We did not understand the court order issued by Judge [Dunstan] Mlambo to prevent this.”
Conroy said eNCA understood a court ruling on media coverage as only applying to pictures taken of witnesses during court proceedings.
“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,” he said.
“eNCA will co-operate fully with any inquiry in this regard and deeply regrets the upset caused.”
Last month, the court ordered that media houses would be allowed full audio broadcasts of the trial but only partial television broadcasts.
The High Court in Pretoria made the ruling on an application brought by eNCA, MultiChoice and Eyewitness News.
On television coverage, Mlambo ruled that media houses could only broadcast opening arguments, any interlocutory applications during the trial, the evidence of all experts called to give evidence for the State, but excluding evidence of Pistorius and his witnesses.
Closing arguments of both the State and Pistorius, delivery of the judgment and the sentence, if applicable, could be also televised.
Mlambo said witnesses had the right to subject the broadcasters to certain “reasonable conditions” including the broadcasting of such witnesses with faces obscured or the use of wide-angle shots.
“Objections by witnesses to the audio/visual recording of their evidence shall be in writing and will be served on the director of public prosecutions and the accused's attorney,” said Mlambo at the time.
Conroy said eNCA should have been more cautious and sought clarity first before using the image.
“This has been an important lesson for everyone in terms of communication with the courts and the parties concerned.”
The media was given a stern warning on Tuesday morning after the picture was used of Burger.
“I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you will not be treated with soft gloves,” said Judge Thokozile Masipa in court on Tuesday.
She ordered that no photograph of witnesses may be used - no matter the source of the picture - if the witness had asked that photos not be used.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel interrupted proceedings shortly after court proceedings began, saying he had been told that Burger's face was being shown on television, despite her request that this should not happen.