A May 2019 Australian Telegraph opinion column made light of suicide attempts by refugees and argued refugees attempting suicide were “attention-seeking.”
That broke press guidelines, the Australian Press Council ruled, despite the Telegraph’s defense of the column as satire. “The publication did not take reasonable steps to avoid causing or contributing materially to some readers experiencing substantial offence, distress and prejudice that was not sufficiently in the public interest,” the council ruled.
A spokesperson for the Telegraph‘s parent company, News Corp. Australia, declined to comment to iMediaEthics.
Further, the council found, “the mocking tone of the article trivialises the suicide attempts referred to in the article and was presented without sensitivity or moderation,” and with no information for people needing help.
The article, “Key Word: ‘Attempts'” was published online only and claimed assylum seekers were “participating in a wave of plainly inept suicide attempts” and called for readers to “place your bets on the final number” of attempts.
The Telegraph denied its column was about actual suicide attempts but rather argued it was a satire comment piece about people making “publicity-seeking and non-fatal self-harm attempts in order to create sympathy for their cause,” the press council reported. The Telegraph also claimed its article wouldn’t harm any asylum seekers since it was behind a paywall and asylum-seekers referenced, living on Manus Island and Nauru, weren’t likely subscribers.
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