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Broadcast blackout of autopsy testimony

Pretoria: A South African court blocked all live broadcasts on Monday of graphic post-mortem details of Oscar Pistorius’s slain girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the star sprinter’s murder trial that is receiving worldwide coverage.

“There shall be no live broadcast of the evidence of Professor Saayman,” Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled before the testimony of Gert Saayman, who conducted the post-mortem examination on the 29-year-old model and law graduate.

“That applies to Twitter,” Masipa added.

As a compromise, media suggested to compile a summary of the testimony and only broadcast after the state and defence agreed on the content. Masipa said she would rule on the application on Tuesday.

Professor Saayman earlier asked that his testimony not be broadcast for ethical reasons. He said the graphic nature of the autopsy report might infringe on Steenkamp’s dignity and harm unsuspecting members of the public who saw or heard the testimony.

“I think that it goes against the good morals of society for us to make information of this nature available in a manner that vulnerable or unsuspecting people in society may be exposed,” Saayman told the court.

The ban followed one earlier on Monday, which forbade all publication during the trial of photos of witnesses who don’t want their images made public even if they were sourced elsewhere.

Last week media organisations had broadcast and published photos of the state’s first witness, University of Pretoria lecturer Michelle Burger, found on other websites.

“I am warning the media, if you do not behave, you will not be treated with soft gloves,” the judge said at the time.

Monday’s photo ban extended witness protection much further than usual, after Judge Masipa came under fire for failing to do enough to protect witnesses from intrusive media coverage and defence lawyers’ aggressive interrogation. (AFP)