A Canadian brewery wanted the Montreal Gazette to unpublish a photo of “suspected murderer Luka Magnotta posing with one of its flagship products,” the Globe and Mail reported. As CBS News explained, Magnotta was arrested June 4 and is “suspected of murdering and dismembering a Chinese student and mailing his body parts to Canada’s top political parties.”
The photo was only posted online and not in the print edition. It accompanies this article “Luka Rocco Magnotta’s scary digital trail” which reports on posts by and about Magnotta.
The photo in question was pulled from Magnotta’s Facebook account, according to the Globe and Mail, and Labatt Breweries responded by sending a letter to the newspaper calling the photo “highly denigrating to our brand” and requested the photo be replaced with one of “the many images available of this person.”
The letter went on, according to the Globe and Mail:
“We hope that a publication such as the Montreal Gazette would understand that this matter is of utmost importance to our company, and, given the number of other options available not containing a brand image, would remove the image of its own volition.”
The Gazette’s executive editor Raymond Brassard defended the use of the photo because it was posted on Facebook and Magnotta’s blog, and because “There is no connection made between the brand and the suspect in the accompanying caption, headline or news story.” Further, the newspaper’s attorney, Mark Bantey, defended the photo as “newsworthy” and noted “The Gazette is not in the business of altering photos because they might offend people, and there was certainly no legal requirement to take it down,” accordingto the Toronto Star.
Open File Canada notedthat it published the photo as well, hasn’t heard from Labatt Breweries about it, and doesn’t plan to remove it. Its CEO, Wilf Dinnick, is quoted by OpenFile as noting that “no one, especially on the OpenFile team, is making any connection between the beer brand and this guy’s alleged crimes.”
We wrote to Labatt Breweries asking for more information about this incident. We were provided the following statement from Labatt’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Charlie Angelakos.
“Our goal was simply to protect our brand. Given the serious nature of the underlying story, we decided it was important to request that an alternate photo be used. Once the Gazette explained their position, we promptly thanked them for their response, dropped the matter and we will not be following up further. We accept the Gazette’s position.
We have also written to the Montreal Gazette for confirmation that Labatt dropped its call and for further comment. We will update with any response.