A Brazilian transgender woman was beaten to death in the streets in Brazil, and Australia’s News.com.au captured the violence with a video and graphic still images. While the video was “substantially distressing,” the Australian Press Council ruled that publishing it was in the public interest.
Oddly, despite the ruling in News.com.au’s favor, the article now doesn’t show any photos or videos. A press council spokesperson told iMediaEthics that News.com.au took the graphic footage and images down this week but wasn’t required to.
News.com.au editor Kate De Brito told iMediaEthics the website was pleased with the ruling and the images and video were only removed because of a technical glitch. “The reason the pictures and video have disappeared is purely technical,” she explained. “We are required to update the original story with the Press Council logo and in updating the main picture container of an archived story it stripped out the video and pictures.”
The March 9 story, “Smartphone footage captures Brazilian transgender woman pleading for help prior to being beaten to death,” describes the video of the February incident in Brazil. The video was recorded on a phone and distributed to help find the woman’s attackers, who ultimately killed her. News.com.au’s story noted that “globally, one transgender person is murdered every three days.”
“There is a public interest in reporting on the serious issue of violence towards transgender people worldwide and in providing access to reliable information demonstrating the due administration of justice,” the press council explained. Further, News.com.au warned viewers with text warnings and a summary of the video, which helped mitigate the graphic nature of the video, and News.com.au didn’t show the “most violent footage,” the council said.
That said, the warning on the video itself just generally warned that there would be graphic material, not specifically advising viewers they were about to watch a graphic beating. Further, the video was on auto-play so it started playing even if viewers didn’t opt to watch it. If News.com.au hadn’t flagged warnings throughout the story and in other instances about the graphic nature of the video, the council indicated it would have ruled against the publication. As such, the council reminded that “great care needs to be exercised” so viewers know what they are about to see.
In an online archive of the News.com.au story, the images themselves weren’t labeled graphic, but at the top of the article, News.com.au posted a “Warning: Graphic Images” label.