Australian newspaper the Geelong Advertiser broke guidelines for reporting on suicide with its April 2017 news report on a man who climbed on top of a roof and threatened suicide, the Australian Press Council ruled.
The article reported on the man’s threat, police negotiations, and that it was resolved safely. The Advertiser defended its reporting as in the public interest “given that it shut down a large part of the city and disrupted a large number of people,” the council reported. Further, the Advertiser argued the reporting was on a threatened, not attempted, suicide, claiming it didn’t have to abide by the guidelines for reporting on suicide.
It wasn’t an invasion of privacy to publish a photo and video of the incident because the man wasn’t identifiable, and it wasn’t distressing to report on the matter since it was published after the “resolution of the incident,” the council ruled. iMediaEthics has written to the Advertiser, a News Corp.-owned newspaper in Victoria, Australia, to ask for its response to the ruling.
The problem was that the Geelong Advertiser’s reporting didn’t square with the specific press council guidelines for reporting on suicide. Namely, the council explained, the paper didn’t contact the man or his friends and family before publication to get consent. The press council’s guidelines for reporting on suicide state:
“In deciding whether to report an individual instance of suicide, consideration should be given to whether at least one of the following criteria is satisfied:
“(a) clear and informed consent has been provided by appropriate relatives or close friends; or
“(b) reporting the death as suicide is clearly in the public interest.”
In addition, the Advertiser shouldn’t have reported “the method of attempted suicide,” the council said. The reporting in general was in the public interest given the public nature of the disruption, though, the council said.