The Daily Telegraph breached suicide reporting guidelines by saying ‘Go for it, boaties’: Press Council

CONTENT WARNING: This post mentions mental ill-health and suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
If you need urgent help, please contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Australia’s newspaper watchdog, the Australian Press Council (APC), has found The Daily Telegraph breached its standards in its reporting about offshore asylum seekers.

The APC requires its members not to sensationalise, glamorise of trivialise suicides. Reporting on suicide, or suicide attempts, must also not stigmatise those involved and should not be given undue prominence.

Blair: An element of satire? 

A 2019 post by Tim Blair which ran online on The Daily Telegraph, however, was found to be mocking in tone and trivialising the suicide attempts of offshore asylum seekers.

An excerpt of the article read: “[The] election result hasn’t gone down well with our off-shore country-shopper community, currently participating in a wave of plainly inept suicide attempts… Meanwhile, place your bets on the final number. Can they crack the half-century? Or even make it all the way to three figures? Go for it, boaties.”

In its defence, the News Corp publication said the article was commenting on how many people would make publicity-seeking and non-fatal self-harm attempts in order to increase sympathy for their cause. The Blair article, titled ‘Key word: Attempts’, included a level of satire, it said.

It also claimed to be referencing self-harm rather than bonafide suicide attempts. The APC rejected this defence, particularly as the article included the goading phrase “Go for it, boaties”.

The publication also did not take reasonable steps to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice, the APC said.

“The Council considers that the publication of the opinion piece behind the paywall did not amount to a reasonable step taken to avoid causing or contributing to substantial offence, distress and prejudice. The Council considered that the reasonable steps to be taken by publication was something other than believing the opinion piece would not be read by the subjects of the article,” the ruling added.

“The Council accepts that in commenting on social issues, columnists are free to express their opinions in strong terms and to use satire to make their points. However, in this instance, the Council considers the mocking tone of the article trivialises the suicide attempts referred to in the article and was presented without sensitivity or moderation. The Council also notes that article was published without a sources of assistance referral. Accordingly, the Council concludes that the publication breached Suicide Standards 6, 7 and 8 in this respect.”

If you need urgent help, please contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636


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