LISA FORSTER MCNICHOLL AGAINST THE PRESS

Case Number: 2137

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Photographs
Taste Lack of
Tragedies, Offensive Handling of
Sensationalism

The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Lisa McNicholl against The Press over the publication of a photograph of a wounded soldier.

Background
The edition of The Press of August 5, 2010 contained news coverage of a border clash between Israeli and Lebanese troops. A photograph accompanying the report showed a Lebanese soldier, wounded by Israeli tank fire, lying on a street.

The Complaint
Ms McNicholl complained to the newspaper that the photograph was gruesome and graphic. She said publication was in bad taste and readers came upon it without warning. She said the image should have been censored.

Not satisfied with the response from the editor, Ms McNicholl then complained to the Press Council, saying she had found the image distressing. Its publication had not been necessary to the report, as people knew the ramifications of war.

The Newspaper’s Response
Editor of The Press, Andrew Holden, advised that with images involving violence, the newspaper makes a judgement about their relevance to the story, their placement in the newspaper and the tolerance of readers to images of violence.

He stated images of violence were not published without considering the affect on readers. The newspaper tried to strike a balance between the potential for upsetting readers and the newspaper’s duty to show readers the truth of the event. He believed the image published was within the bounds of what readers will accept.

Mr Holden also said that words can never match the documentary and emotional impact of a photograph.

Discussion
There is no argument that photographs of violence can upset people, as in this case. But the Press Council is committed to upholding the freedom of the press and, in war and other catastrophes and violent incidents, this is of extreme importance.

Newspapers must balance their duty between covering our world, and the likely impact that shocking and distressing reports and images may have on their readers.

The Press Council is persuaded that The Press did not publish this photograph without considering the impact on its readers.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.