BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Karavasil and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-010 (27 June 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Josephine Karavasil
Number
2016-010
Programme
ONE News
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

ONE News reported on the case of a Palmerston North schoolgirl who had been abducted earlier in the day, and subsequently located and reunited with her family. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the privacy of the girl and her sisters. The item did not disclose any private information about the girl; the details given were in the public domain at the time of the broadcast and carried high public interest, as they may have assisted with the search for her abductor. The girl’s sisters were not identifiable in the item and therefore their privacy was not breached.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1]  An item on ONE News reported on the case of a Palmerston North schoolgirl who had been abducted earlier in the day. The reporter said that she was located and reunited with her family several hours later, but that her abductor had not yet been apprehended. The girl was named and her photograph was shown several times during the item.

[2]  Josephine Karavasil complained directly to the Authority, alleging that the item breached the privacy of the girl and her sisters.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 12 February 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast breach the privacy of the girl and her sisters?

[5]  The privacy standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs. This is in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships and opinions away from the glare of publicity.

[6]  Privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s privacy principles has the widest application to alleged breaches of privacy. This provides that it is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective, reasonable person.

[7]  Ms Karavasil argued that the ‘intrusion into [the girl’s] privacy could remain with her for the rest of her life’. She considered that a reasonable broadcaster would have omitted the names of the girl and her sisters.

[8]  TVNZ argued that the girl’s name and image were not private facts as these had been supplied to the media in a Police media release and press conference that day. It submitted that it was not ‘the role of the [Authority] to second guess the decisions of the police in regard to operational matters – the decision to release the girl’s identity on 12 February was one which was made by police given the circumstances of the abduction’. TVNZ noted that the girl’s mother was ‘aware that her daughter would be named and images would be shown of her by media at that time’. It pointed out that Police only requested that media cease publicising the girl’s name several days later on 15 February 2016, when her alleged abductor was apprehended and charged. TVNZ further argued that the information disclosed about the girl was in the public interest, and that her sisters were not named in the item.

[9]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we must first determine whether the person (or persons) whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. The girl’s sisters were not named or featured during the item beyond a couple of brief references to the girl’s ‘sisters’ and ‘the girls’, therefore we do not consider they were identifiable for the purposes of the privacy standard or that their privacy was breached.

[10]  In terms of the girl who had been abducted, her full name was given and images of her were shown several times throughout the item. We are therefore satisfied she was clearly identifiable.

[11]  The next question is whether any private facts were disclosed about her. A ‘private fact’, for the purposes of privacy principle 1, is information which a person would reasonably expect to remain private, as opposed to information that is on public record or already in the public domain.2

[12]  The information disclosed about the girl during the item – her full name, her photograph, where she was abducted and where she was found – had been supplied to the media by New Zealand Police on the day of the broadcast, for the purpose of dissemination. The broadcaster did not disclose any additional details about the girl that had not already been publicly released by Police. Therefore, we consider this information was already in the public domain and did not amount to private facts.

[13]  In any case, the broadcast carried high public interest, as it involved a matter of safety for both the girl and the general public. While the girl had been located by the time of broadcast, her abductor had not yet been identified or apprehended. The girl’s image and her identity were relevant details in the search for her abductor, as members of the public may have witnessed the girl and the abductor together earlier that day, and may have been able to assist Police in their search for the abductor.

[14]  At the time of the broadcast, no direction had been issued by Police that the publicly available information about the girl should no longer be used by the media. A direction to this effect was issued three days after the broadcast. Had the disclosure of identifying details occurred after this direction from Police, our findings on privacy may well be different. However, for the reasons outlined above, we are satisfied that the broadcast in question did not breach the girl’s privacy as it did not disclose any information about her that was not already in the public domain.

[15]  Accordingly, we are not upholding Ms Karavasil’s complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 June 2016

 

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1     Josephine Karavasil’s direct privacy complaint to the Authority – 17 February 2016
2     TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 April 2016
3     Ms Karavasil’s final comments – 11 April 2016
4     TVNZ’s final comments – 13 April 2016

 

 


1 This complaint was determined under the previous Free-to-Air Television Code, which applied up until 31 March 2016. The new Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview

2 Practice Note: Privacy Principle 1 (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2011)