APN’s Australian Regional Media’s The Queensland Times has been censured by the Australian Press Council for publishing an image of an accused person which featured two children, on its mobile platform and across Facebook.
The image ran on July 1, 2015, alongside an article headed ‘Goodna dad accused of drug, weapons and robbery offences’. The newspaper had not obtained consent to run the image of the children, who were not the subject of the article.
While the publication admitted the image had been published due to a technical error, the Press Council still upheld the complaint as it was a “serious breach of the children’s privacy”.
The Queensland Times said: “That an error in the digital publishing process had resulted in the article appearing on a mobile platform with the image of the children”.
The newspaper told the Press Council a reporter had noted the error “early on the day of publication and the material was removed within a short time”.
However, the publication did admit this was “not sufficient to prevent the image being shared on social media”. The newspaper offered the complainant an apology and removed the online article.
The Queensland Times also said it has taken steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring by implementing a policy of blurring or cropping out children that appear in court-related images stored in the publication’s library system.
While the Press Council welcomes the apology and the measures to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again, it noted that The Queensland Times still cannot preview what it publishes to mobile.
“As news organisations publish through new technologies and in new formats, it is important they maintain adequate checks and balances given the propensity for mobile content to be shared widely through social media,” the Press Council said in its adjudication.
“This vigilance particularly applies when publishing images of children, in order to avoid the gravity of such mistakes and their consequences.”
The ruling comes as the Press Council prepares to release guidelines on the reporting around children, including the use of images.