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Judge in Oscar Pistorius case warns media over leaked photo

Tuesday, 4 March 2014 - 3:32pm IST | Agency: Reuters
  • Oscar Pistorius Oscar Pistorius Reuters

The judge in the murder trial of South African track star Oscar Pistorius sharply warned the media to behave on Tuesday after a local television station leaked a photo of the state's first witness who had asked that her image not be broadcast.

Judge Thokozile Masipa ordered an investigation into the leak after broadcaster eNCA showed a photo of Pistorius' neighbour Michelle Burger during the audio broadcast of her second day of testimony.

While the trial is being televised live, a previous court order had ruled witnesses must give their consent to be filmed.

Television station eNCA on Tuesday accompanied the audio broadcast with a picture of Burger. After prosecutor Gerrie Nel pointed out the leak, Masipa called for a brief adjournment.

"I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you are not going to be treated with soft gloves by this court," Masipa, herself a former journalist, said when the court resumed.

Olympic and Paralympic star Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine's Day last year. He says he mistook her for an intruder.

The trial, which could see one of global sports' most admired figures jailed for life, has drawn comparisons with the high-profile murder trial of American football star and actor O.J. Simpson two decades ago.

Burger, a university lecturer who testified on Monday that she heard "bloodcurdling" screams from a woman followed by gun shots, has not consented to being filmed and only the audio of her testimony is being broadcast.

She was closely cross-examined for a second day on her testimony by lead defence attorney Barry Roux.

Masipa also restricted the media from publishing photos of witnesses who have not consented to be filmed.

Patrick Conroy, the head of news at eNCA, said on Twitter the station had used a photo from the website of the University of Pretoria, where Burger is a lecturer of construction economics. Other newspapers also used the picture, he said.

A separate South African court ruled last month that the trial should be televised, saying it was vital for impoverished South Africans who feel ill-treated by the justice system to get a first-hand look at the proceedings.

(Reporting by Ed Cropley; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)




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