Assessment by the Council
The press council considered a complaint about an article entitled & # 39; Tears and Prayers for a Murdered Father: Vietnamese lawyer Ho Ledinh is saying goodbye to a traditional Buddhist funeral service – mysterious shooter remains free after daylight Sydney café shoot & # 39 ;, published on the Daily Mail website on January 31, 2018. The article reported on the funeral service for the late Mr. Ledinh and contained eight photos of mourners at the funeral.
The complainant, Mr Ledinh's daughter, said that media photographers, including from the publication, entered her father's funeral service and took photos without the family's permission. She said the photographers roamed the room to take photos, but while she and her family were praying, they couldn't stop the ceremony to demand that they leave. The complainant said that only family and friends had been allowed to take photos for relatives who could not be present. She said that after the ceremony, she and other family members asked the photographers to leave and delete the photos and recordings made.
The complainant said the presence on the media was intrusive and did not remain a respectful distance from mourners. It made a farce of the ceremony, an insensitive public spectacle of the grief of the family and the death of her father, and distracted them from their mourning. When publishing the images, the publication made them available to third parties who had uploaded them as a video on YouTube, causing the family to suffer even more. The complainant said that by publishing the names of family members the publication violated their privacy and drew attention to them as potential targets of the killer and generated public speculation.
The complainant said that although there may be public interest in the events surrounding her father's murder, there was no reason to enter the funeral, take photos, and report without the family's consent. She said that she and her family (including her father's second wife) had not spoken to the media directly or through a third party, and the funeral director was instructed that the media should not be admitted to the funeral home. The complainant said that she had requested removal of the articles and a blocking of their access via online search.
The publication said that a woman who was a close friend of Mr. Ledinh's second wife was told that her staff could be present to cover the funeral and that she spoke on behalf of the family. It also received an email from a man who was an old friend of Mr. Ledinh and who was with him at the time of his death, including a copy of the funeral announcement and an invitation to forward it to others.
The publication said his photographer was initially told by an unknown person at the funeral that media were not allowed. The reporter noted, however, that another reporter and a news crew from a television station had the funeral by a man at the front who seemed to have access and who asked if they could go in to cover the funeral. He agreed and said it was public and that they were journalists. The publication said that in these circumstances and in light of previous correspondence from close friends of the family, the reporter believed that the family had agreed to cover the second part of the funeral that included prayers.
The publication said the reporter stayed behind in the service as the photographer moved closer to the front to take photos, but did not photograph certain aspects at a respectful distance from the family and out of respect for the family. It said that a journalist from another media organization started interviewing some guests and a member of the family objected to this and then objected to the reporter of the publication about the funeral. When the reporter said the man in front of the funeral home had agreed to cover, the relative said he was not a family and asked the reporter to leave, and he left immediately.
The publication said the photographer went back at the end of the ceremony and took photos of people who paid their last respect through the coffin. The publication said at that time he was being approached by three women and asked to remove the photos and leave and the photographer did this, although some previously taken photos had already been sent to the publication. The photographer left the funeral immediately.
The publication said it was never intended to cause suffering, and noted that it must strike a balance between the public's right to know and the need for people to grieve privately. It said while the subject is emotional, it considered the events newsworthy and was already well established in the public domain. It said it would not have gone to the funeral service without permission and that it could only assume that there had been some confusion between family members and friends and different parts of the family about the presence of the media. It said the reporting was handled sensitively and the only name it reported was that of the second wife of Ledinh, who had previously been reported. It did not publish clear images of the faces of his young children. It said that it is common for others to make videos & # 39; s of their content available on YouTube, over which they have no control. It offered to submit a request to The Newspaper Licensing Agency to have the video content removed.
The Council notes that the publication at a late stage of the Council's complaint process agreed to remove the article and did so before publishing this ruling.
The relevant Council standards require that publications take reasonable steps to prevent someone from entering the reasonable expectation of privacy (general principle 5), substantially contributing to significant suffering or risk to health or safety (general principle 6), or publishing material collected on unfair manner (general principle 7) – unless this is sufficiently in the public interest. They also require that when searching for personal information, journalists do not unnecessarily infringe on the privacy of individuals and show respect for the dignity and sensitivity of people they encounter when collecting news (Privacy Principle 1). Finally, members of the public who are entangled in newsworthy events cannot be exploited and a surviving relative has the right to refuse or end an interview or photo session at any time (Privacy Principle 7).
The Council is of the opinion that usually permission must be sought from the family or the funeral director to request permission to attend and cover a funeral. The Board is of the opinion that the permission was not given by the funeral director or directly by the family. However, it is believed that the publication had a reasonable basis for believing that a friend had given permission on behalf of the family. The Council notes that the publication eventually heralded the funeral by a man who presented himself to the publication and to other media representatives as authorized to grant or refuse access. The Council accepts that the publication specifically asked the man if it was allowed to cover the funeral because the permission had been previously denied and was subsequently given by the man as "they were journalists".
However, the Board is of the opinion that family members then made it clear at the time of publication at the funeral that they had no permission from the family to attend, take or use the photos. The Board is of the opinion that this has destroyed earlier indications of consent and that the publication should not have used the information and images that had previously been obtained at the funeral. Accordingly, the Board believes that when publishing the photos of the funeral ceremony, the publication did not take reasonable steps to prevent breaches of the reasonable expectation of family privacy. Although there was a general interest in the circumstances of Mr Ledinh's death and in the funeral report, that public interest was not sufficient to justify the publication of photographs as soon as the family's wishes were clearly addressed. publication. Accordingly, the publication violates general principle 5.
For the same reasons, the publication also violated one aspect of Privacy Principle 1 in that it showed no respect for the dignity and sensitivity of the family by publishing photos as soon as it was made clear that no permission had been given. However, privacy principle 1 was not infringed on other points.
The Council also believes that the use of the photos would have led to considerable crime and unrest in the circumstances and that the public interest in the circumstances of Mr Ledinh's death was not sufficient to compensate for the violation caused. and to justify the need. Accordingly, the Council considers that the publication was contrary to general principle 6 and privacy principle 7.
The Board does not believe that the material has been published in a deceptive or unfair manner, because the reporter and photographer of the publication initially believed that the family agreed to enter the location and take photos. Accordingly, the publication has not infringed general principle 7.
The full decision is available here
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