The Belfast Telegraph published a photograph of a 7-year-old girl who died of meningitis earlier this year, as well as as another photograph of her coffin at the funeral. Further, the photograph of the girl was lifted, without permission, from the Mass booklet at the funeral service.
The family of the girl, Brónagh Kinney, was disturbed by the insensitive and invasive treatment from the North Ireland newspaper.
Kinney’s godmother complained to press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the photos, alleging the February 2017 print and online article and photos were an invasion of privacy and deeply upset the grieving family. The godmother alleged the Telegraph‘s journalist took the photo of the coffin from a hiding spot in the church graveyard, entered the funeral service, wrongly saying the family granted permission and not leaving when asked, and took a copy of the Mass booklet, which featured a picture of the girl.
IPSO guidelines advise that “in cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively.” Further, photos of and interviews with children under 16 must be approved by parents or guardians.”
The Telegraph argued that it was fair to report on the funeral because the girl’s death had been the subject of “considerable coverage.” That said, the Telegraph denied its photographer, a freelancer, hid in the graveyard, ignored requests for him to leave, or lied about the family allowing him to attend. The Telegraph said it was “normal practice” for the newspaper’s photographer to obtain a copy of the Mass booklet. However, the Telegraph did agree to remove the picture of the child, taken from the booklet.
iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph to ask when the apology will be published online, if the apology was published in print and which charity it would donate to.
The online version of the article shows that the photo of the coffin being carried inside the church is still published.
The Telegraph’s apology reads:
“In our edition of February 23, we carried a report on the funeral of Brónagh Kinney in Cushendall, which included a picture of Brónagh, which had appeared on the order of service. We were unaware that the family did not want this image to be published more widely. Our article also included a picture of the cortege entering the church. It has come to our attention that a child who was part of funeral procession was photographed without the necessary consent being given. We apologise to Mrs Gina Kinney and the family for any further distress that was caused by our use of these pictures.”