“Police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident”

datePosted on 06:00, February 6th, 2009 by Anita

Section 71 of the Coroner’s Act prevents the media using the phrase “the death is suspected to be suicide” and instead requires the media to use euphemisms. I have heard two explanations for the restriction – preventing additional suicides and respect for the family – neither hold water because we permit overt reporting of suicides providing that the conventional euphemisms are used. It’s not even necessary to canvas the dubious argument that reporting cases of suicide may inspire other suicides, because the reality is that suicide cases are reported on and everyone knows it. 

Media organisations have argued against the restriction for years on the grounds that it unnecessarily restricts press freedom. I’d also like to add the argument that it reinforces a culture of shame and secrecy for families dealing with the pain of suicide – a truly awful experience only compounded by the message from society that we must not speak of it.

Suicide must be reported on respectfully, it must not be sensationalised and the media must respect the pain of the family and friends. The Coroners Act does not require any of those, all is asks is that media use well recognised euphemisms.

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7 Responses to ““Police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident””

  1. jcuknz on February 6th, 2009 at 08:46

    >>a truly awful experience only compounded by the message from society that we must not speak of it.<<

    The hypocracy of society which refuses to let a person decide when they want to go and give them the dignity and respect of somebody leaving of natural causes.

    I guess a religious hang-up … so much trouble is caused by religion, it is really sad how a good concept can get twisted by mankind’s intolerance.

  2. reid on February 6th, 2009 at 12:42

    This issue was discussed on RadioLive last Sunday afternoon in the ‘What’s my line’ segment.

    I’ve often wondered myself what the right answer is to this question.

    The expert said that discussing it can potentially put it into the mind of vulnerable teenagers. By vulnerable he was meaning those undergoing some trauma like a parental marriage break-up or a relationship issue. He gave an example where some young couple might decide to do it because one or both sets of parents were critical of their relationship.

    I can’t find the audio, it was an interesting take on it.

    I’d previously been of your mind, Anita. Why, I used to think, would simply discussing it with someone put that thought into someone’s mind if they hadn’t already been thinking about it themselves? Surely if they were thinking of it already merely talking about it would not be a negative. He did acknowledge that aspect, in the context of an individual discussion.

    However a media discussion reaches out beyond that and teenagers as we know sometimes aren’t very rational in the same way that adults are.

  3. David Farrar on February 6th, 2009 at 13:23

    Interesting the ACT applies not just to media, but all persons, so a blog would be breaking the law if it stated how DIxon topped himself.

  4. Anita on February 6th, 2009 at 13:48

    David Farrar,

    Yep, it’s really broad.

    I’ve always wondered if it prevents schools telling students when a fellow student commits suicide.

  5. Graeme Edgeler on February 6th, 2009 at 16:41

    Section 71 of the Coroner’s Act prevents the media using the phrase “the death is suspected to be suicide” and instead requires the media to use euphemisms.

    Not true. The Coroners Act prohibits describing the manner of death, not the fact of death or the belief that it was a suicide.

    They can say say it was a suicide, they just cannot say how the death occurred (e.g. they cannot say someone committed suicide by jumping off a bridge, or by hanging themselves).

  6. Anita on February 7th, 2009 at 19:04

    Graeme Edgeler writes,

    Not true. The Coroners Act prohibits describing the manner of death, not the fact of death or the belief that it was a suicide.

    According to Jim Tucker Paul Thompson (was at The Press, now Executive Editor of Fairfax Media) agrees with your interpretation, but most of the rest of the media believe it prevents them from saying a death was suicide.

  7. Thomas Beagle on February 9th, 2009 at 12:26

    I believe the confusion might be caused because you are allowed to describe it as a suicide – but only after the Coroner has deemed it to be so.

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