Daily Mail accuses Press Council of ignoring facts in ‘extraordinary’ ruling against the publication

Industry watchdog the Australian Press Council (APC) has ruled the Daily Mail breached its Standards of Practice by attending and photographing a funeral without the consent of the deceased person’s family.

The Daily Mail, however, has not taken the ruling in its stride, lashing out at the watchdog and saying the facts have been ignored in order to deliberately portray the publication as insensitive and unethical.

The adjudication and the Daily Mail’s response, side by side

The initial incident occurred back in January 2018, following the murder of criminal lawyer Ho Ledinh.

The Daily Mail contends its reporter and photographer were legitimately invited to the funeral service by family members of Ledinh, and allowed into the service by someone who knew they were journalists. The Daily Mail noted other media representatives were also in attendance, and allowed into the Buddhist ceremony.

A complaint to the Press Council from Ledinh’s daughter, however, said photographs were taken without permission, and there were multiple instances of the reporter being asked to leave, and requests for the photographs to be deleted.

The Press Council decided that, despite the confusion over being initially let into the service by someone who seemingly had authority, the subsequent requests to leave and delete the photos meant the photos of the day should not have been published.

“The Council considers that in publishing the photographs of the funeral ceremony, the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid intruding on the family’s reasonable expectation of privacy. While there was a public interest in the circumstances of Mr Ledinh’s death and in reporting on the funeral, that public interest was not sufficient to justify the publication of photographs once the wishes of the family had been clearly conveyed to the publication,” the ruling against the Daily Mail said.

The Press Council ruled the publication breached general principal five – “Avoid intruding on a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest” – and six – “Avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is in the public interest”.

Privacy principle one, regarding the collection of personal information, and privacy principle seven, relating to the use of sensitive personal information, were also breached, according to the Press Council.

The Daily Mail is obliged to run the ruling on its website, but alongside it, the publication has run an article titled ‘Who’s keeping an eye on Australia’s media watchdog? How the Australian Press Council failed to live up to its lofty standards of fairness and impartiality in one-sided ruling’.

“Just to be clear, Daily Mail Australia was invited, a respectful distance was kept, no-one was approached at the service for comment, the story was sensitively written, and any pictures of young family members were blurred to protect their privacy.

“A rival site which was arguably less cautious in its coverage of the funeral has not been criticised, nor received a complaint,” the publisher said in its article.

It contends the APC “conveniently ignored” these facts as it was determined to portray Daily Mail as insensitive and unethical.

“The adjudication process in this case – which has dragged on for 18 months – has been deeply flawed and one sided. It foes no credit to the APC and the lofty goals it stands for.”


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