Sep 2nd 2021

ACMA must censure News Corp for naming and shaming Aboriginal man who died of COVID

GetUp will be referring The Australian newspaper to the Australian Media and Communications Authority over its disgraceful and racist reporting on the death of a 50-year-old Aboriginal man in Dubbo.

In an article published on 30 August, three Australian reporters named the 50-year-old Aboriginal man who died of COVID-19 in Dubbo earlier this week. They also published photos of him taken from social media, despite widely recognised Aboriginal cultural protocols restricting the publication of the names and photos of people who have died without permission or instruction from the family.

Not only that, the article brought up the man's past criminal record, and the fact that he lived in a housing commission property — seemingly for no other reason than because he was Aboriginal.

Journalists from other news outlets have reported that the family declined an interview with The Australian, and did not give permission for the man's name or photograph to be published. Some of the man's children did not even know that he had died before the article was published online.

ACMA must take swift and decisive action to censure News Corp, and send a message that racist and harmful reporting like this will not be tolerated.

GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin said:

"The Australian newspaper has gone to a grotesque new low this week. In an article published on Tuesday, its reporters named and shamed an Aboriginal man who died of COVID-19, breached Aboriginal cultural protocols, went against the express wishes of his family, and published needless details about his personal life.

"Publishing the name and photograph of an Aboriginal person who has recently died — when his family did not give permission — is a reprehensible and profoundly harmful thing to do. Any journalist with even a basic knowledge or interest in reporting on First Nations people should be aware of this.

"As if that wasn't bad enough, The Australian also published details of the man's past criminal record, as well as the fact that he lived in a housing commission property. What on earth does his living situation have to do with anything? 

"Right now, Dubbo's Aboriginal communities are in shock. People are grieving. They're scared. They don't know whether more people are going to die, or if the government is ever going to help them.

"A national newspaper writing about this man in this racist and grossly disrespectful way — after his family explicitly declined an interview — compounds that grief and hurt. It inflicts gratuitous suffering on a family and community that is already going through something profoundly awful.

"We will be referring The Australian to the Australian Communications and Media Authority over this. In the meantime, editor-in-chief Christopher Dore should personally apologise to the family, take the article down immediately, and issue an explanation to The Australian's readers."