Daily Mail’s publication of suicide methods not in public interest, rules watchdog

Note: If you or someone close to you requires personal assistance, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

An article in the Daily Mail Australia which described the suicide of a man on a Sydney railway platform, has been condemned by the press watchdog for its vivid description of the death.

The article headed ‘Commuter chaos as man throws himself in the path of a train in front of horrified passengers on a busy Sydney platform – and drivers have to drag him from under the carriage’, was published on May 30 2017, and included witness accounts.

Seven photographs were also taken showing ambulance and emergency officers at the train station, including one from a platform which had the caption ‘police cleaning blood off the train pictured’.

The publication said its reporter was a witness at the incident and had provided information and photographs to the news desk. Upon looking at the images, the news desk determined they would not likely cause distress, but had decided against publishing other imagery.

Daily Mail Australia said it did not intend to cause offence and took care to ensure information was published with sensitivity. It added the story was in the public interest, given the suicide took place in a public place with dozens of witnesses, and had caused disruption to the transport network.

In its response to the complaint, the paper also argued the method of death was well known and the station’s location was a key part of the story.

The Daily Mail also noted some wording was strong but argued the story had not glamorised suicide or presented it as a solution to person’s problems. The publication said the article included details of how witnesses felt, hoping to show how committing a public act can impact others.

The Press Watchdog said the use of explicit language, such as “leaping”, “wedged under the front carriage”  and “cleaning blood off train” in combination with imagery would cause some readers offence and distress. But the Council said it was not substantial, clearing them of one of its principles.

However the Australian Press Council (APC) decided that while reporting on the traffic disruption was in the public interest, it could have been served without reporting the incident as an attempted suicide. It also said it was not in the public interest to release the method of attempted suicide.

“The Council considers that the use of explicit language to describe the accident and its aftermath in the headlines, text and captions together with the photographs themselves gave undue prominence to the attempted suicide rather than the disruption to public transport. In doing so, the publication did not exercise special sensitivity and moderation in reporting the incident and breached Specific Standard 7 on Coverage of Suicide,” it said.

The ruling comes a week after Media Watch criticised the publisher for its coverage of US designer Kate Spade’s suicide.

Note: If you or someone close to you requires personal assistance, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14


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