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Handling Media

Unlike other losses, the grief associated with a homicide is no longer private. When a homicide occurs, it quickly becomes public information; in fact, some families endure the horror of finding out through TV, the internet or the radio etc. that their loved one has died – before the police have even notified them. Homicide investigations make news headlines, so as a victim of crime you may find yourself at the centre of media attention.
You might want to share your story with the media as part of your recovery process, to help the police catch the offender, to raise awareness of crime or for fundraising purposes. But you might also find the attention of journalists intrusive and upsetting — especially as you are trying to come to terms with what has happened.

With every type of crime, reporters have to be careful about what they report on, in case they say things that could affect the result of a trial in court. As a victim of crime, you also have to be careful about what you say publicly. For example, you might say something that a court decides would make it impossible for the accused to get a fair trial, which could lead to the case being dropped.

Some points to consider:

  • Journalists are under pressure to air stories and if they cannot speak to the victims’ families, they will often speak to friends or others associated with the case who don’t have accurate information. Victims of homicide may overcome this by releasing a statement from the family; speak with the Police officer in charge of your case before you do this.
  • The media can sometimes assist in police inquires but the attention may be intrusive. For example, they may follow you home, pretend to be someone other than the media, sit outside your driveway, take photos etc. when you are grieving, or you may hear or read something about your families and friends that is disturbing.
  • Once a photo has been released to the media, they have the authority to use this photo to support other stories, and the families will have no control over how and when the photo may appear. If families are unhappy with a certain photograph or video extract of their loved one being aired, they have the right to contact that media outlet, and ask to replace that with another of the family’s choice.
  • Families have the right to negotiate editorial rights over their story. Some magazines/newspapers offer this, others don’t. It is recommended that families negotiate this upfront, with a view to approving the final copy before it runs to print, this means there are no surprises when the story is aired. The media do not always have your best interests in mind.

Journalists are bound by a Code of Ethics. Click on the links if you are concerned about how you are being treated by media practices.

Print and digital media codes can be found here
Radio codes of practice can be found here
Television codes of practice can be found here

If you have any complaints regarding the media’s behaviour, you may direct them to:

The Australian Press Council
1800 025 712

Australian Communication and Media Authority
1800 226 667

Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance
1300 656 512

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