The Sydney Morning Herald upset family members and invaded privacy when reporting on the killing of a teacher, the Australian Press Council found.
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s December 2015 news article reported on a court hearing related to teacher Brian Liston’s murder and included details about the stabbing attack on him. The newspaper defended the reporting, citing the information was taken from the court’s public record and that the story was in the public interest. iMediaEthics has written to the Herald for its response to the ruling.
But the press council received a complaint about the level of detail in the story and inclusion of a photo of Liston with his children, which was taken from a funeral booklet. The complainant noted that the funeral booklet even said the family didn’t want information out to the media.
As such, the press council found that, while there is public interest in reporting on the attack and death, it was an invasion of privacy to publish a photo from the funeral booklet. It was also upsetting for the newspaper to publish so many details about how Liston died, including how and where he was wounded.
“The Council accepts there is a strong public interest in reporting on the due administration of justice and matters of public health and safety, particularly in this instance in drawing attention to the care and support available for people with serious mental illness and the risk that a lack of such care may pose to the broader community,” the press council ruled. “However, the public interest in this matter did not extend to publishing the photograph from the funeral booklet. The Council notes the family’s explicit request for privacy in the funeral booklet and considers the family—in particular the children depicted in the photograph—had a reasonable expectation of privacy in this regard.”
The press council dismissed a complaint alleging the newspaper got information from “deceptive or unfair means” because the reporter self-identified as a reporter to the funeral organizer.