November 28th, 2010
BBC action on Chandler story: Ethical or just legal?
By Dan Kubiske
First posted at DC SPJ.
The BBC wanted to report on the situation of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a British couple who spent more than a year kidnapped in Somalia. It was a major story but legal steps taken by the Chandler family prevented the media from saying anything until the Chandlers were released.
The couple’s family had gone to court in the UK and asked a judge to grant them what’s called a ‘super-injunction ‘ – a legal measure that’s caused controversy as it has often been used by celebrities to stop newspapers publishing stories about their private lives.
As it’s also illegal even to refer to the existence of a super-injunction, the BBC could not explain to listeners and viewers why they were quiet on the story when others, who did not obey the ban – were not. Was this something that concerned the Editor of BBC World News, Jon Williams?
He explained that while the BBC is not in the business of censoring the news, no story is worth a life – and so the BBC accepted the argument of the family, their lawyers and the judge that to do otherwise would jeopardise the safety of Paul and Rachel Chandler.
So, as the Over to You editor asks: “What do you think?”
Should the BBC and other news outlets have violated the court injunction and report what they had?