2012-09-18    The reporting of suicide

Ever since I came to Hong Kong, one thing that has greatly disturbed me is the way suicide is reported in the media here. With the exception of  quality publications like Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post, most printed media report suicide in a very unprofessional way.

Some years ago I knew a family where the mother took her life. The next morning several newspapers had photos of her body floating in Hong Kong Harbour. Her family were terribly distraught that such photos should be published.

As well as causing distress to the families of people who have died, irresponsible reporting of suicide also encourages "copy cat" suicides by emotionally disturbed people. This is especially the case when explicit details of suicide methods are published.

Every year the Hong Kong Press Council issues warnings and reprimands to various printed publications for suicide reporting. But the publications just ignore the Press Council. When will the government do something about this sad situation?