Sky News reporter Colin Brazier has apologised for touching items from the wreckage of the crashed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, admitting that he became too personally involved in the story.
The presenter was widely criticised for picking up items – including a set of keys and a child’s pink water bottle – that were among the debris of the crashed Malaysian jet in his live broadcast from Ukraine on Sunday.
He has now said that he was thinking of his own children – five daughters and a son – while reflecting on the scene of devastation. “I got things wrong,” Brazier said. “If there was someone to apologise to in person, I would.”
Brazier wrote in the Guardian: “During that lunchtime broadcast I stood above a pile of belongings, pointing to items strewn across the ground. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a pink drinking flask. It looked familiar. My six-year-old daughter, Kitty, has one just like it.
“I bent down and, what my Twitter critics cannot hear – because of the sound quality of internet replays of the broadcast – is that I had lost it. It is a cardinal sin of broadcasting, in my book anyway, to start blubbing on-air. I fought for some self-control, not thinking all that clearly as I did so.
“Too late, I realised that I was crossing a line. I thought aloud: ‘we shouldn’t be doing this … this is a mistake’, an instant apology that was only selectively quoted by those determined to see what I did as a powerful example of journalistic vulturism.”
The footage was met with a storm of criticism online. BBC radio presenter Shelagh Fogarty wrote on Twitter: “Sky!!! Get your reporter to STOP rummaging thru belongings at #mH17 crash site.”
BBC Sport presenter Jacqui Oatley said she was “absolutely astonished” by Brazier’s conduct.
The incident came amid concerns that the MH17 crash site had been contaminated by the presence of armed pro-Russia separatists, local people and the international media.
Brazier said that Sky, which issued its own apology for the report, has supported him despite his “serious error of judgement”.
“They were supportive and keen to stress that they understood the context of the gaffe,” he wrote.