Sky News reporter Colin Brazier has admitted he was wrong to handle victims' belongings at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine.
Writing in The Guardian, the journalist said the site was unchecked and he was "free to walk around at will".
But he called his "gaffe" a "serious error of judgement" and said he cried on-air after seeing a child's flask.
More than 100 people complained to media watchdog Ofcom after Brazier's live Sunday lunchtime broadcast.
The complaints are currently being assessed before the broadcasting regulator decides whether to launch an investigation.
The report showed Brazier pick up items from an open suitcase.
He dropped them back into the luggage saying "we shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really".
A Sky news spokesperson said both Brazier and Sky News "apologise profusely for any offence caused".
Writing his version of events following a vociferous backlash on social media, Brazier said other journalists were acting on the freedom they had on the crash site, and "foolishly took that as a precedent".
He said the moment he realised he was doing something wrong "came too late" and just after the moment when he began crying, which was not picked up on poor quality replays of his report on the internet.
"At the weekend I got things wrong. If there was someone to apologise to in person, I would," he wrote in his article.
Brazier added his on-air apology was "only selectively quoted by those determined to see what I did as a powerful example of journalistic vulturism".
He said in a live and open-ended item from Ukraine, there was "no obvious frame of reference" but the crew chose "to avoid pointing a live camera anywhere a corpse might be seen".
Brazier described how he reported from the site of another air disaster at Lake Constance in 2004, where "within hours police had sealed off a sterile area and no journalists were allowed in, while forensic investigators and recovery teams went in".
He described the Ukraine site as a lawless warzone where journalists where not kept at bay.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on 17 July.
All 298 people on board were killed.
The crash left bodies strewn across several kilometres, as well as plane wreckage and passengers' belongings.
The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down the passenger jet.
Ukrainian authorities have released a recording they claimed was a conversation between pro-Russian militants admitting to firing the missile.
However, separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the Ukrainian government of attacking the airliner itself.
The US and other nations say there is growing evidence of Russian complicity in the crash.