The Daily Telegraph breached Press Council standards for transphobic article on axe attacker Evie Amati

The Press Council has ruled that The Daily Telegraph breached its Standards of Practice with an article about Evie Amati, who is spending at least eight years in jail after attacking three strangers with an axe in a Sydney convenience store in 2017.

The article, published on 11 January 2018 and headlined “Allegedly Axey Evie”, received complaints from people concerned about the prominence the article gave to Amati’s transgender status and distressing and prejudicial references including: “having been chopped herself”, “a “tranny” and a “previous he”. The story also made references to her former name, “Karl”.

The Council ruled that “having been chopped herself” referred to gender reassignment surgery and transgender people in an offensive way, and referring to Amati as a “Sydney tranny” was also offensive.

The writer of the article, unnamed in the adjudication, said that Amati “sought to share the experience” of being “chopped”, but this linked being transgender with Amati’s violent act, according to the decision, and therefore the newspaper failed to “take reasonable steps to avoid substantial offence, distress or prejudice”.

However, the Council also ruled that The Tele did not breach the requirement to present factual material with reasonable fairness and balance. The writer used satire and exaggeration to express his opinion, but these opinions were based on factual material, the Council said.

The Daily Telegraph breached Press Council standards in its reporting on Evie Amati

Before the Council delivered its decision, The Daily Telegraph was asked to respond to the complaints. It said the writer’s tone and style is known to his “very specific” audience “who understand and appreciate his tone and approach”, and the piece responded to a crime that was in the public interest. To not report on Amati’s transgender status would be to deprive readers of relevant facts that influenced her life, the newspaper said. It added that the writer is known to be against violence and has written on such issues.

The Council noted that “the crime for which Ms Amati was accused and later convicted was one of serious violence which the community struggled to understand and, in commenting on it, columnists are free to express their opinions in strong terms and to use satire”. However, this did not mitigate the newspaper’s responsibility to not cause substantial offence, distress or prejudice.

The article in question appears to no longer be on the newspaper’s website, and The Daily Telegraph published the Council’s adjudication.

The Council was delayed in reaching a decision on the matter due to legal proceedings concerning the article that were commenced against The Daily Telegraph in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). NCAT ruled that an ordinary reader would have enough intelligence and taste to not be incited to have severe contempt or ridicule for Amati or transgender people.


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