Discuss the relevant ethical and legal issues raised by the scenario below. Research material used must be from reliable Australian sources. Use the Harvard Referencing Style.
Note: You do not need to assume anything on the facts supplied below. Analyse them as presented to you, based on your developing understanding of media law and ethical principles and regulations. Please avoid phrases such as ‘assuming that …’, or ‘If we assume that…’ in your analysis.
- A woman has disappeared from her Melbourne home after going for a walk one afternoon. Mary Richards has just been promoted to Chief of Staff at the Channel X newsroom and wants to make sure that night’s bulletin has a strong lead story on the missing wife and mother. She sends a camera crew and reporter Jane Jones out to the family home, finding the address with a simple White Pages search after the police Media Liaison Officer releases her name, suburb, and a headshot photo.
- Mary owes a big favour to her mate at Channel Y, Jim Liu, so she texts him the address and an offer to share footage. The crew sets up a stakeout across the road from the house, filming the family as they arrive and leave. The reporter Jane Jones knocks on the door, but the woman’s husband tells her to get off the property. The camera crew stands on the footpath and films the front door. Jim arrives with his camera operator, who knows the family’s son. He talks to the son and gets another photo, of his parents’ wedding, but does not share it with Mary on Channel X.
- A few months later, bushwalkers find a body under a log in a national park outside Melbourne. Both Channel X and Y upload the news onto their website, with text saying that the primary suspect is the husband. Channel Y uses the family photo, circling the husband’s face, with a caption, ‘Is this the face of a wife killer?’ Police tell the media that they found a shovel and a cap near the burial site, and are DNA-testing the cap. No one has been arrested or charged with any crime yet.
- Two months later, police arrest the husband and charge him with murder. Social media goes into a frenzy, calling the husband a murderer and paying tribute to the dead woman. The media stakeout returns to the family home, this time with more camera crews and photographers. Melbourne’s Daily Bugle runs a front-page story with a ‘Timeline to Death,’ a photo of a shovel, and a still shot of the wedding photo given to Jim Liu with a jagged line graphic running between the wife and husband. A sidebar is headlined, ‘Wife killing not guilty plea.’ The husband’s defence team applies for an injunction against any further comments about the accused, but a Brisbane newspaper picks up the story and runs the wedding photo in its print edition. Its online edition does not use the photo or comment on the accused. It compared the woman’s disappearance to that of Allison Baden-Clay in Brisbane in 2012.
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