We need responsible and ethical reporting in the time of COVID-19

Published 1 August 2020    

Anti-Discrimination NSW is calling on news organisations to consider the social impact and harm caused by news reports and media commentary of the pandemic, after media outlets named and shamed two young women alleged to have breached Queensland COVID-19 restrictions.

“While this occurred interstate, the news stories and media commentary that followed has had a far and wide impact on African communities,” Ant-Discrimination NSW President the Honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC said.

“We have heard that community leaders, organisations and members of the African community have experienced public backlash as a result of these news reports.”

“We are all asking: was the editorial decision to reveal the identity of the two young women made in the public’s interest? Does the publication of their names and photos help reduce the risks of COVID-19 from spreading and does it encourage people to follow COVID-19 restrictions?”

Dr Bennett said that news organisations and journalists play a vital role in social cohesion and that responsible and ethical reporting now, during a global pandemic, is more important than ever.

“We need to enhance cohesion and ensure that news reports and media commentary do not promote stigma, racism and discrimination.”

“The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Sydney is troubling and we understand that people are fearful of a second wave outbreak. The media needs to focus on providing useful updates about the pandemic and not to use it as an opportunity to spread fear, stigma and xenophobia.”

Dr Bennett said that she strongly supports the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall’s calls for the media to focus on public health and safety, not scapegoating.”

“The Australian Press Council’s standard of practice states that its principles focus on four values which include privacy and avoidance of harm,” Dr Bennett said.

“The two young women had their right to privacy clearly breached and the media reports have fuelled discriminatory behaviour in our communities and online.”

“I encourage news organisations to do better, to understand the consequences of their reporting and to ensure that they apply ethical standards, and consistent standards, in future news reports about people breaching COVID-19 restrictions.”

For media enquiries email: adbmedia@justice.nsw.gov.au

Last updated:

07 Jul 2021

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