New Zealand Law Society - Photos of injured bus passengers in news item breached privacy

Photos of injured bus passengers in news item breached privacy

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, which featured photos published on Facebook of people injured in a bus crash, breached their privacy.

The item reported on a fatal bus crash that occurred near Gisborne on Christmas Eve last year. The bus was carrying students and teachers from a Tongan school band, who were visiting New Zealand to fundraise for their school. Three people died in the crash.

The item, which was broadcast on Christmas Day, featured photos, sourced from a public Facebook page for the Tongan community, of some of the injured passengers in hospital.

While the photos were in the public domain, the Authority found that the passengers had a reasonable expectation of privacy over their images. As injured patients receiving medical care, they were in a vulnerable position and did not consent to their images featuring in the news item.

The BSA acknowledged the broadcaster’s submission that the Tongan community may have seen the use of the photos as a sign of support or respect for those involved in the accident. However, broadcasting the images on a national news programme widened the potential audience beyond the community for whom the photos were initially shared on Facebook.

“The publication of content on one platform does not automatically justify further republication on another platform, to a national audience, without consideration of the [broadcasting] standards that apply,” the BSA says.

“Where republishing of social media content does occur, any privacy issues that arise should be reconsidered, and expectations around publication of content on the new platform considered afresh.”  

The BSA is currently undertaking research into the public’s, and broadcasters’, views on privacy and social media, including attitudes towards broadcasters’ rights to access and republish social media content.

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