50 complaints to the PCC over Irish suicide images

The Press Complaints Commission has received around 50 complaints after Irish tabloid, Sunday World, published a photograph of a man hanging from a bridge after apparently taking his own life.

The paper caused outcry across Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic yesterday when it printed a graphic picture on its front page of a man hanging by a rope from a bridge in Bangor in County Down.

The press watchdog told Press Gazette this morning the complaints it had so far received were third party complaints from members of the public rather than from the man’s family.

It is therefore unclear whether a formal inquiry will take place. A PCC spokesman said it had not launched an investigation at this stage and would wait to see if the immediate family wished to contact them.

The spokesman said: “The family’s wishes will have to be paramount. If they do wish to make a complaint that is something we would be obviously happy to look at.”

The PCC has made contact with the family through the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the spokesman said, in case the man’s relatives wish to raise the matter formally.

According to the voluntary code of practice to which newspapers adhere, editors are expected to take care to avoid excessive detail about the method used when reporting suicide.

The editor’s codebook also refers to the use of “graphic images” depicting the act of suicide and warning the code could be breached if images break news of a death to the families or could be taken to glamorise suicide.

In March, the PCC tightened the guidance it gives to newspaper editors over the reporting of suicides in the aftermath of a series of deaths of young people in Bridgend, Wales, and a spate of rulings from the industry watchdog in this area.

In September last year, the watchdog censured the Daily Sport for a “gratuitous article that glamorised suicide” after the tabloid published a “Top yourself tourism” list.

The Sunday World article, which was headlined “Halloween Horror” suggested the body had been in full public view for three hours.

Sunday World Northern Ireland editor Jim McDowell defended publication saying it was “not intended to be voyeuristic” and the identity of the man was not revealed by the images used.

The police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and they had removed the body as soon as it was possible to do so.

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