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The South African judge in the murder trial against South African double amputee and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius warned media companies on Tuesday that TV coverage from the trial could be forbidden if outlets don’t tread carefully in their coverage.
Judge Thokozile Masipa on Tuesday briefly adjourned the court hearings less than an hour after they began on the trial’s second day following a prosecution complaint that a photo of the first Monday witness had been published against her wishes.
The photo had also been shown by South African independent TV station eNCA. However, the photo of the witness was from the website of the University of Pretoria, where she is a professor, and was not taken inside the court room.
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In a statement, eNCA said it did not broadcast any images of the witness in court, but used the publicly available photo.
However, the judge asked for a full investigation and possible penalties for breaking the court order on identifying witnesses. She warned that no photographs of witnesses from any sources should be used by the media going forward.
She said that the photo controversy was just the “tip of the iceberg.” If media outlets don’t follow the set rules, they would be “treated with kid gloves,” she said, adding that she can revoke permission to broadcast the rest of the trial.
The adjournment is an indication of how intense the media circus and scrutiny of it has been.
Ahead of the start of the trial last week, high court judge Dunstan Mlambo said he would allow live TV broadcasts from the trial, for the first time in South Africa, with a number of special conditions, which included no images of witnesses if they did not provide permission.
The case has drawn South African and international media attention, with many major international news outlets carrying live streams of the trial on their websites and reporters live blogging details of the hearings. South African paper The Citizen has called the trial “The Oscar Show.”
Local reports said that 80 journalists have been granted access to the courtroom — 40 of them representing South African media outlets, with another 40 journalists from foreign media organizations. An additional 200 journalists have access to an “overspill” room outside the courtroom.
Pistorius is charged with the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day night in 2013 at his home in Pretoria. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.
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