Geelong Advertiser should not have told readers about man threatening to jump off car park, rules press watchdog

A newspaper which reported widespread disruption in a city centre has been found guilty of beaching Australian Press Council guidelines because it told readers that a “distraught” man was threatening to throw himself off a car park.

The APC ruled that while News Corp’s Geelong Advertiser was entitled to tell its online readers that disruption was taking place, it should not have revealed the reason. The article appeared online in April last year.

The APC’s rules on reporting of suicide state that the method and location of a suicide should not be described in detail unless the public interest in doing so clearly outweighs the risk of causing further suicides.

The Geelong Advertiser argued that in reporting that a man was threatening to harm himself, it was not necessarily reporting on an attempted suicide, but rather on a “nuisance event”.

How The Geelong Advertiser reported the incident

The publication also argued that jumping off buildings was already a well known suicide method, and reporting of the man’s threat would not increase the risks of others doing the same. The publication also argued that the incident had already reached public attention through social media and other media outlets, and it was in the public interest to tell people the reason why a large part of the city had been shut down.

The man, who was not identified in the story, was later safely persuaded by police to come down.

In its ruling, the APC said: “The Council considers that although it was in the public interest to report on the disruption caused by this incident—namely the diversion of traffic and closures of public space—this public interest could have been served without reporting the incident as an attempted suicide.”

It added: “The Council is not satisfied that it was in the public interest to publish the method of the attempted suicide—ie that the man ‘was threatening to jump’. “


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