Analysis of Ethical and legal issues

  • Category:
    Law
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
  • Page:
    3
  • Words:
    2248

Analysis of legal and ethical issues 3

Analysis of Ethical and legal issues

Analysis of ethical and legal issues

This scenario concerns a number of issues to do with observing of privacy by the media in reporting. The first issue is whether the Daily trumpet is guilty of “a gratuitous and outrageous invasion” of John Strident’s private life and whether this is ethical and legal or not. The second issue relates to ethical reporting by Daily Trumpet regarding the issue relating to Jack Hack’s murder. The Newspaper reports seem to indicate that John Strident is the one that murdered the journalist though there is no evidence to this effect. Journalists are supposed to observe a number of ethical principles in their reporting. Such principles include honesty, accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. They are also not supposed to place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics which include sexual orientation among other factors. Journalists are also supposed to respect private grief and personal privacy in reporting and hence resist compulsion to intrude. The Australian privacy laws also require journalists to respect personal privacy in reporting (Law Reform Commission, 2016). However, even where privacy has been infringed, the company responsible will not be held accountable where there is a clear public interest. Based on these ethical and legal principles therefore, my position is that the media company should not be found guilty of interfering with John Strident’s personal privacy since though they do not seek his consent in obtaining the information they broadcast given that the information touches on his personal life or his sexual orientation, there is a public interest in the information the company broadcasts given the fact that Strident’s acts are clearly in contradiction with his campaign. However, the company has failed to apply the ethical principles of honesty in reporting since they report on John’s involvement in the journalist’s murder based on hearsay but not on the basis of evidence. In this case therefore, the media company is guilty of unethical reporting.

Issue 1: Respect of personal privacy

In this case, Jack Hack hears a rumour about Strident being in a gay relationship despite the fact that he is a well-known political figure in Victoria leading a campaign against gay marriage. Hack climbs over the back fence of Strident’s home and films through a window and captures a video of Strident kissing his boyfriend. Daily trumpet publishes the print edition of the full video on its website. As a result, Strident’s wife announces she is filing for a divorce. Strident then accuses the newspaper of disrespecting his privacy. The issue is whether the newspaper is guilty of “a gratuitous and outrageous invasion” of Strident’s private life.

The general principle is that the broadcaster should not broadcast material that relates to personal or private affairs or invades a person’s privacy for instance y intruding upon his seclusion as held in Gleeson CJ in ABC v Lenah Games Meats 208 CLR199. For breach of privacy to occur, a particular person must be identifiable from the broadcast. The broadcast material must have disclosed personal information or intrude upon the person’s seclusion in more than a fleeting way (Roger, 2016). A person’s seclusion is intruded upon where he has a reasonable expectation that his activities would not be observed or overheard by others and where a reasonable person would consider the broadcast of such information highly offensive as held in Gleeson CJ in ABC v Lenah Games Meats 208 CLR199. Seclusion may include everyday activities and sexual activities. If consent has been obtained before broadcasting material, this waives the complainant’s claim for privacy protection. It is to be noted that being a public figure does not waive right to privacy in one’s personal life. However, public figures are open to greater scrutiny of matters that might affect their carrying out their public activities. It is to be noted that broadcast of private information or material that invades privacy without consent does not breach privacy if there is clear and identifiable public interest in the broadcasted material as held in Campbell v MGN Ltd (2004) UKHL 22. Materials that invade the person’s privacy in public interest ought to contribute indirectly to public’s ability to assess an issue of importance as well as its knowledge and understanding of the subject as held in London Artists v Littler (1969) 2 QB 375 at 391. For public figures, broadcast of information that invades their privacy is in public interest where it raises awareness about the person’s fitness for office and their capacity to carry out their duties or if their conduct and behavior is in contradiction to their stated position on an issue as held in Allworth v John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd (1993) 113 FLR 254 at 263.

Application

In a similar case, ACMA Investigation report 2431, the ACMA found no breach of privacy where a news bulletin reported on a minister’s resignation for personal reasons and detailed the investigation into the minister’s visit to a gay sex club and a footage of him leaving the club (Law Reform Commission, 2016). The ACMA was satisfied that the broadcast was on material relating to the minister’s personal or private affairs thus invading his privacy. Specifically, the information implying sexual preferences was deemed material relating to the minister’s private affairs and despite the limited disclosure, it did not deprive the information of its private nature. The fact that it related to the minister’s out of hours conduct of attending the gay sex club was something an ordinary person would consider private (Jean, 2016). However, despite this, ACMA found identifiable public interest in the invasion of his privacy since the broadcast would help shed light on the minister’s resignation. The ACMA thus stated that although everyone has right for privacy protection, public figures were open to greater and frequent scrutiny.

In this case, the Daily trumpet’s journalist on hearing rumors about Strident’s gay relationship accesses his home without his consent and captures a video of Strident kissing his boyfriend. This is clearly an act of intruding Strident’s seclusion since a reasonable person would have would have expected capturing of such a video as totally invasive. The newspaper company goes on to broadcast the contents of the video an act that intrudes his seclusion in more than a fleeting way. This is despite the fact that the journalist/the company has not sought Strident’s consent to broadcast such material (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, 2016). To this extent therefore, the media company has clearly invaded his privacy. It should however be noted that Strident is a public figure who openly campaigns against gay marriage in Victoria. Thus, the fact that he is suspected to be in a gay relationship goes against what he campaigns for and hence this obviously elicited public interest both among the gay and non-gay communities given his political activities against gay marriages. In this case, Strident’s behavior is clearly in contradiction to his stated position on gay marriages. Thus, the broadcast of the material though without Strident’s consent does not amount to the breach of privacy since there is clearly identifiable public interest in the material broadcasted.

Position

Based on the arguments above and the fact that Strident campaigns against gay marriages yet he is in a gay relationship and also based on the fact that he is a politician and hence a public figure, my position is that the newspaper did not interfere with his privacy by broadcasting the material. This is because by broadcasting the materials, the public is made aware of the fact that though Strident campaigns against gay marriages, he is in a gay relationship. As a public figure and a politician, his dishonesty is brought to light since he should not be campaigning against what he practices.

Issue 2: Ethics in reporting

The issue is whether the journalist and hence the newspaper company in gathering and reporting news has applied the ethical principles applicable to its industry of operation. It is to be noted that the journalist in verifying the rumour about Strident being gay actually climbs over the back fence of Strident’s home and takes a video of Strident kissing his boyfriend without his knowledge or consent. When the journalist is killed, the newspaper reports about Stringent being a murderer based on the police informing the public that he could be armed. The company also broadcasts about Strident having made full confessions regarding the murder though this is not the case. This is later disputed when the case comes to hearing nine months later. The issue arises whether the company in all this cases adhered to the ethical code of conduct for the industry.

The journalist’s code of conduct requires journalists to apply a number of standards as they go about their reporting and hence broadcasting. First, they must report and interpret honestly while striving for accuracy and fairness while disclosing all essential facts. They should also do their utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply (Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, 2016). Journalists are also required not to place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics such as their sexual orientation among others. Journalists are also supposed to use fair, responsible and honest means in obtaining material. They should identify themselves before obtaining materials for broadcasting. In additions, the code of ethics require them to respect private grief and personal privacy and should also resist the temptation to intrude private seclusion.

Giving information that is not accurate may result to defamation on the part of the offended party. This is publication of any false information that concerns a person by which the person’s reputation is likely to be injured and this is likely to injure his profession or trade with the likelihood of being shunned by others (austlii.edu.au, 2016). It is however the responsibility of the person claiming defamation to prove a number of things including that the words or material were capable of defamatory meaning as understood by an ordinary person. The words must have identified the person as the one being defamed and that the words or material have been published or heard or seen by a third person or the public.

Application

In this case, the journalist does not seek consent to enter Strident’s home but he does it secretly through the back fence where he takes a video through the window. This is against the applicable ethical code since he is supposed to have sought for consent to enter Strident’s home and he should also have sought an interview with him to confirm the rumors and also the consent to broadcast such material (lawstaff.org.au, 2016). The material broadcast also show lack of respect for personal privacy and the journalist does not resist compulsion to intrude Strident’s seclusion. A reasonable person would not intrude someone’s privacy to this extent and hence this is deemed unethical. Regarding the murder of the journalist, the newspaper reports that the murderer should be arrested without any prove that Strident is the one that murdered the journalist. It is clear that the police are suspecting that he might be armed and they also have an intention to interview him regarding the murder of the journalist. But the police do not state that they have evidence that he is a murderer. To them, Strident is just a suspect. The newspaper out of hearsay from the police again reported that Strident had made full confession although this was not the correct position. In other words, the newspaper does not make any effort to verify what they hear from the police and hence they dishonestly broadcast strident as a murderer and go ahead to report that he has confessed. This against ethics that need journalists to verify their news including their sources and be fair, honest and accurate in reporting. This is actually defamation and has the effect of running Strident’s reputation without prove.

Position

Based on the arguments above, I am of the position that the media company has greatly failed to follow the laid down code of ethics for the industry. It is unethical for the journalist to have invaded someone’s private premise and hence privacy to this extent. This is also bearing in mind that the journalist does not even attempt to hear Strident’s side of the story or even getting consent from him before broadcasting the information. Their report about Strident being a murderer on the confession are also unethical since they have not been verified and are not based on evidence. As such, I think the newspaper company is unethical in reporting and should even be sued for defamation.

References:

Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2016, Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd, Michigan University Animal Legal & Historical Center, Retrieved 15th August 2016,<
https://www.animallaw.info/case/australian-broadcasting-corporation-v-lenah-game-meats-pty-ltd>.

Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, 2016, MEAA Journalist code of ethics, Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Retrieved 14th August 2016, <
https://www.meaa.org/meaa-media/code-of-ethics/>.

Roger, C2016, Privacy and the media-A platform for change? Austlii.edu.au, Retrieved 14th August 2016, <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UWALawRw/2012/7.pdf>

Law Reform Commission, 2016, News law reform commission: Invasion of privacy, NSW Law Reform Commission, Retrieved 14th August 2014, <http://www.lawreform.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/report_120.pdf>.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, 2016, Privacy law, Australian Government Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Retrieved 14th August 2014, <https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy-law/>.

Jean K2016, Privacy laws: Michael Kirby’s push to allow legal action over serious personal invasions, abc.net.au, Retrieved 14th August 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-02/push-for-new-laws-preventing-invasion-of-privacy/7377782>.

lawstaff.org.au, 2016, Defamation, Lawstaff.org.au, Retrieved 14th August 2016, <http://www.lawstuff.org.au/sa_law/topics/defamation>.

austlii.edu.au, 2016, Defamation act 2005, austlii.edu.au, Retrieved 14th August 2016, <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/da200599/>.