Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The fine line between information and sensitivity: PCC censures Daily Record

“In general”, writes Roy Greenslade of the Guardian, I don’t think newspapers should carry pictures of dead people.”

This was also the ruling upheld by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) which has censured the Daily Record for using a picture that showed the body of a man wrapped in sheeting, found on a footpath near Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. The PCC made its ruling after the man’s aunt complained that the Daily Record had been insensitive and had caused distress to family and friends, adding that he was not a celebrity so the paper should have exercised some restraint. The PCC sided with the aunt, arguing that there was no justification for the “very specific nature” of the photo and though the Record had a duty to inform the public, it was also obliged to handle publication of such stories with sensitivity.

Certainly this is a very fine line to straddle. This case of the Daily Record raises similar questions to those raised recently in the debate about images of Qaddafi. The very graphic footage of a barely-alive Qaddafi, and eventually his dead body, were aired by most of the major broadcasters and carried by mainstream newspapers. This, however, appears to have been deemed acceptable; as Roy Greenslade points out “it is, of course, unlikely that a relative of Colonel Gaddafi will make any complaint about the papers' grisly front page pictures of his dead body.”

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