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Monday, March 23, 2009

Other voices on confusion in the media about the public interest.

From ABC Radio PM, before the weekend apologies:

Professor of Journalism at UTS, Wendy Bacon:I mean, what could possibly - let's assume the photographs were the photographs of the person they're meant to be - what would be the public interest in publishing photos of someone undressed, you know, many years before?
I can't see in this case there's a public interest argument. If you reduce public interest just to whatever titillates people or whatever is of interest, well then the whole notion of some broader concept of what is in the broader interest absolutely dissolves....

The whole idea behind the journalist code of ethics is this very fundamental thing is that you carry out checks and you attempt to ascertain the truth before you publish. And I would have thought that, particularly in the case of something that was a photograph, everybody knows the potential to doctor it, even if in fact it was a different person in this case and not a doctored photograph, but from years before, one would just be absolutely alert to it. And I think it's also a concern that this is not some junior journalist acting under pressure, this is the editor of a newspaper who has got all these other journalists working underneath him.

David Weisbrot President of the Australian Law Reform Commission: We've seen very poor judgement on the part of editors on what's newsworthy or not. They seem to have - some of them have no understanding of what it means to have a public interest. We've shown that many media proprietors don't have any respect for their own codes, which are supposed to protect privacy, and they argue that we don't need greater regulation because they have industry codes that specify respect for personal grief, for personal privacy and so on. And we've seen in some of those cases as well that there's really no recourse for the victims of serious breaches of their privacy, even in the most outrageous circumstances.

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