Our website uses cookies to give you the best experience and for us to analyse our site usage. If you continue to use our site, we will take it you are OK about this. Click on More for information about the cookies on our site and what you can do to opt out.

We respect your Do Not Track preference.

Press Council upholds grieving family's privacy complaint Charles Mabbett
2 March 2016

Press Council logo

The New Zealand Press Council has sent a timely reminder to the news media to check how they use photos taken from social media in news stories.

A family who lost a daughter in a tramping accident in January 2016 complained to the Press Council, claiming the newspaper had breached Principle 2 – the privacy principle - of the Press Council’s statement of principles.

The family directed its privacy complaint to the Press Council because the media exclusion in the Privacy Act means the Privacy Commissioner cannot investigate privacy complaints about the news media.

The complaint

The family’s complaint arose from an article about the tramping accident which was published by The Press on January 6. The article included a photograph of the victim copied from her Facebook page, as well as her name, age, occupation and her employer.

Reporters from The Press also attempted twice to contact a family member. This was despite a Police media statement that “the victim's family are naturally grieving so Police and Victim Support urge media to give them privacy at this time".

In its decision, the Press Council said “the uninvited intrusion by the media caused the family enormous additional distress and the time and energy required to cope with it had a detrimental effect on their ability to cope with their loss”.

The Press

The Deputy Editor of The Press, Kamala Hayman, explained that a senior reporter had been assigned to contact the family because the newspaper believed it would be disrespectful to publish the article without giving family members a chance to comment.

Ms Hayman said the privacy request in the Police media release was a standard sentence and did not indicate the family had asked not to be contacted. Ms Hayman subsequently arranged for the photograph of the victim to be removed from the Stuff website.

The decision

The Press Council said the family was entitled to the protection of Principle 2 under the ‘grief and trauma’ clause. While photographs on an open Facebook page could be regarded as publicly available, this did not exempt a publication from its obligations under the privacy principle to give special consideration for those suffering from trauma or grief.

The complaint was upheld.


Police appear to be committed to making sure the news media get the message that grieving families have a right to left alone by reporters. In a more recent case involving the death of a Patea truck driver, a Police media release relayed a privacy request from the driver’s family.

The Police media release said the family had expressly requested that their privacy be respected and had advised Police they did not want to be contacted by any news media.


, ,



No one has commented on this page yet.

Post your comment

The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.