Press council urges sensitivity, following regulations, in suicide coverage

Eesti Päevaleht, one of the two publications censured by the press council.
Eesti Päevaleht, one of the two publications censured by the press council. Source: ERR

The Estonian Newspaper Association (EALL) press council says that two news publications violated best practices in their coverage of the suicide of a 10-year-old boy, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

The stories appeared in July in daily Eesti Päevaleht and news portal Delfi, concerning the suicide in Sillamäe in eastern Estonia.

The press council said the pieces went against best practice in their detail, images of the child, and descriptions of the act.

EPL and Delfi said for their part that careful consideration was given to their coverage, which they felt valid given the incident was the third at the same Sillamäe school involving what it called school violence, in six months.

The publications, which belong to the same media group, Ekspress Meedia, said that the parents had approached the media and requested the details of the incident be made public.

However, the press council noted that the parents were inexperience in dealing with the media, finding that EPL and Delfi had violated section 4.6 of the Code of Press Ethics, which provides that information on the health status of particular individuals should not be disclosed unless required by the public interest. 

The details of the incident went into an unjustifiable depth, the council added.

The press council also recommends journalists follow World Health Organization (WHO) media guidelines entitled "Suicide Prevention: Suicide Media Coverage", which says that the media should adhere to certain principles in order to avoid the negative impact of media coverage on vulnerable people and the risk of suicide. 

Examples of the above would include photographs of the deceased, descriptions of the method of suicide and location, and details of actions the deceased may have taken in planning the incident, in part to try to prevent any copy-cat acts.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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