The Press Council considered a complaint about an article published in The Queensland Times on 1 July 2015 (in print and online), which contained an image of an accused person. While the image in print was only of the accused person, the image on the mobile platform and the Facebook version, headed “Goodna dad accused of drug, weapons and robbery offences”, included an image of two children.
The children were not the subject of the article and consent had not been obtained to publish their image.
The publication acknowledged to the Council that the image had been published in error. It said that an error in the digital publishing process had resulted in the article appearing on a mobile platform with the image of the children.
The publication said the reporter noticed the error early on the day of publication and the material was removed within a short time. It said unfortunately this was not sufficient to prevent the image being shared on social media. In addition to offering the complainant sincere apologies for the error, it also removed the online article and offered the complainant assistance in having references on Facebook removed.
The publication said it had taken steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring and implemented a policy of blurring or cropping images of children in court-related images stored on the publication’s library system.
The Council accepts the publication’s explanation that a technical error was responsible for the publishing of an image of the children. However, the error was a serious breach of the children’s privacy and accordingly, the complaint is upheld.
The Council welcomes the publication’s apology to the complainant and the added measures and internal processes the publication says it has implemented to avoid similar mistakes in future. The Council notes, however, that the publication still cannot preview what it publishes to mobile. As news organisations publish through new technologies and in new formats, it is important they maintain adequate checks and balances given the propensity for mobile content to be shared widely through social media. This vigilance particularly applies when publishing images of children, in order to avoid the gravity of such mistakes and their consequences.
Relevant Council Standards (not required for publication):
This adjudication applies the following General Principles of the Council.
“Publications must take reasonable steps to:
5: Avoid intruding on a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy, unless doing so is sufficiently justified in the public interest.
6: Avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest.”