« FiFo fieldwork | Blog home | Spotted on a bus in ─░stanbul »

All honour to Frances Killaly who made a complaint to the Australian Press Council about the use of pictures of random Aboriginal children in the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald to illustrate stories about abuse of children in Indigenous Australian communities. (The story was reported in the rival The Australian).

Dishonour to all the newspapers, (including The Australian) which continue to illustrate stories (mostly negative) with pictures of random Aboriginal kids as 'emotional wallpaper' (evoking the 'gag-me-with-a-spoon' reaction that Will Owen had to the Australian's doggerel ad).

And absolutely totally completely all dishonour to their self-regulatory body, the Australian Press Council which found there was no case.

Adjudication No. 1369 (adjudicated September 2007)
"In dismissing complaints over the use of pictures of Aboriginal children in reports on the Prime Minister's plan to address matters of child abuse in Northern territory communities, the Australian Press Council reaffirms that newspapers and magazines have a duty to inform the public of important issues and have the right to illustrate these issues with photographs. However, they need to take special care when those images deal with children in circumstances where a false inference can be drawn.....While acknowledging Ms Killaly's genuine concerns the Council does not believe the publication of the pictures indicated the children had been abused."

So what if the photographs aren't of children who have anything to do with the problem? In a story about sex abuse??????

Hey! How about illustrating a story on the hidden sexual abuse/obesity epidemic/drug-taking in wealthy suburbs of Sydney with cute pictures of white kids playing on green lawns, say... identifiable pix of Rupert Murdoch's kids, or of kids linked to editors of The Australian, or to Jack Herman of the Australian Press Council?

The newspapers claim the parents gave consent for the pictures. I wonder if they can document this? I wonder if the parents really knew the implications of giving consent - was it informed consent? No way would Rupert or Jack Herman, or the journos give consent for pictures of their kids to be used in such stories. They know too much about what pictures and text side-by-side can do.

Wanna complain? ... complaints@presscouncil.org.au

Comments

Presumably, the duty to inform the public of important issues and the right to illustrate these issues with photographs are not separate, but rather the photographs must pertain in some way to the issues of which the public is being informed. That is, I would expect that the story illustrated with a picture of, say, Rupert Murdoch, is about Rupert Murdoch in some way, as opposed to the story being about Jacques Chirac for instance, and merely being illustrated with Rupert Murdoch's picture simply because he is picturesque (how fanciful).

That said, if the only relation that holds between the subject of a photo and the subject of an article that the photo illustrates is that they have ethnicity (roughly) in common, then I would contend that the Murdoch/Chirac example is equally as permissible.

Good news! As one of the people who e-mailed a complaint about the Killaly judgment, I received an e-mail which said:

"It has decided to revisit some of the issues raised by the Killaly complaint, in particular the question of the use of photos of children to illustrate news stories. [Jack Herman, Executive Secretary of the Press Council has] been asked to write a position paper, based on previous adjudications and other ethical codes, as to when children's images can, and should be used, and when the inferences of their use might be such that they should not be used. The paper will be considered by the Council's Policy Development Committee, which will consider the need for the Council to develop a guideline statement on the issue for distribution to editors."

I guess if you know about existing codes for using photographs of children, it might be good to pass them onto the Press Council.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Enter the code shown below before pressing post

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
More

FAQ

Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics

Links

E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages

Projects

ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text