The Daily Telegraph’s publication of journalist beheading image vindicated by Press Council

The Australian Press Council has ruled in favour of The Daily Telegraph after a complaint was made about the use on the paper’s front page of an image of journalist James Foley about to be beheaded.

In its ruling the APC said that while the image, which shows Foley dressed in an orange jumpsuit while a black clothed member of terror group IS holds a knife near his throat; was likely to cause offence, the public interest in publication outweighed any potential distress or upset the image may have caused.

The image, which was published on the front page of the newspaper on August 21 last year with the headline “Barbarians behead US journalist in grotesque propaganda clip. PURE EVIL”, was taken from an IS online video of the US journalists’ killing which attracted widespread coverage.

While the APC agreed “the image was likely to cause substantial offence and distress to a significant number of people” it argued “it is sometimes in the public interest for people to be exposed in a powerful way to realities which they may find upsetting but about which it is important that public opinion is well-informed.”

The Daily Telegraph cover in question.

The Daily Telegraph cover in question.

Many outlets had reproduced the image showing the beheading about to take place such as fellow News Corp tabloid the New York Post showing the knife very close to Foley’s throat.

The council did note in its ruling that the front page splash of the image was not necessary and could have been avoided to reduce the potential impact of the image on passers by, in particular children.

“The Council considers that the image could well have been published on an inner page without losing its effectiveness. This would have reduced the risk of offence or undue harm to children and others including those who merely saw it in passing,” the ruling stated.

“The risk could also have been reduced by choosing, as did many other publications, an image less close to the actual beheading but still powerfully graphic.

“On balance, however, the Council has concluded that publication of the image was not a breach of its Standards.”

The Daily Telegraph published the APC ruling on its website.

Robert Burton-Bradley


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