Editor defends front page photos of apparent suicide

The editor of the Northern Ireland edition of the Sunday World has defended his paper’s decision to use 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.

Sunday World Northern Ireland editor Jim McDowell said the publication was “not intended to be voyeuristic”.

He said the body had been in full public view for three hours and the picture used by the newspaper meant the dead man was not identifiable.

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.

Suicide awareness groups slammed the paper’s decision to publish the pictures. Malachy Toman of the Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS) told the BBC in Northern Ireland printing photographs was “absolutely disgusting”.

He said: “I lost my 21-year-old son in exactly the same circumstances and when I picked up the newspaper this morning, my stomach just churned.

“This young man has a family and friends and I would say they will be feeling a hundred times worse than me when they see this photograph.

“Did the editor not take into consideration how they would feel when he took the decision to publish this? Did he not sit back and think how he would feel if this was a member of his own family?

Toman said he would be contacting the industry watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, over the photos.

A PCC spokesman said this morning it had contacted the local police so they could pass the family of the man information on its services, however, no other decision had yet been taken in relation to the Sunday World.

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.

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