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BeechPapa

Laws on publishing photos of distraught relatives?

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After every plane crash, within hours of the event there are usually photos published of distraught relatives in tears at the arriving airport. This seems like an invasion of privacy to me. These poor people are emotionally broken, in perhaps the lowest state of their lives, and on top of that must deal with cameras going off all around them and pictures of themselves in despair and grief on the front of every news site or paper. I understand the airport is a public location, but is there any responsibility for news gatherers to have signed permission from the subject before publishing the photos? It's extremely hard for me to believe that these relatives might have signed a release right after hearing such dreadful news. And if they haven't, I don't personally think the news outlets have any right publishing these pictures. Unlike the crash of the airplane itself, the mental state of surviving relatives isn't really a public matter.

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Hi Ethan,
 
While I agree with you on allowing these people some privacy in their moment of distress, there is no law that I'm aware of that prevents a photographer from taking pictures in a public space. If you're singling out an individual I would think the rules of getting a model release would apply but if you're shooting a massive crowd I don't believe you have to get a release from each person in the photo. 
 
This is from the ACLU page and applies to the US so not sure if the same applies elsewhere:
 
"When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society."
 
"the mental state of surviving relatives isn't really a public matter."
Actually, it's part of the story so in a sense, whether you agree with it or not, strong emotions help tell the story and capturing those strong emotions is important.

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Good morning, evening  or day to you all.

 

This could seriously open the proverbial can of worms and thank you for bring this subject to the fore Beechpapa.

 

My initial and not really thought out response, is that whilst there may or may be no laws governing this and again depending on the country you are in, I would have thought it a moral or ethic issue.Where the media posture is positioned appears to be, nearly always, seriously separated from any ethic or moral issues.

 

I simply cannot fathom why they think this is an attractive item for the general public.  Anybody who is not aware that any death or deaths has an inherent grieving factor which is normally a very private thing, is like the media, seriously separated from reality.

 

Hmmm, I wonder if I really should push the post button now.  Please remember that this is a very personal observation.

 

Regards to all

 

Tony 

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Hi Ethan,

 

While I agree with you on allowing these people some privacy in their moment of distress, there is no law that I'm aware of that prevents a photographer from taking pictures in a public space. If you're singling out an individual I would think the rules of getting a model release would apply but if you're shooting a massive crowd I don't believe you have to get a release from each person in the photo. 

 

This is from the ACLU page and applies to the US so not sure if the same applies elsewhere:

 

"When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society."

 

"the mental state of surviving relatives isn't really a public matter."

Actually, it's part of the story so in a sense, whether you agree with it or not, strong emotions help tell the story and capturing those strong emotions is important.

 

Mike, thank you for the informative quote from the ACLU and your very thoughtful reply. It is much appreciated. I can understand the spirit of the law (especially in a free society that protects free press and free speech) in allowing public places and events to be recorded. However, this does seem at odds with the relatives' rights to grieve privately, which we both feel they should have the ability to do. This gets into a very sensitive grey area it seems. I'm not exactly sure how a law protecting the privacy rights of grieving relatives - especially in the midst of such a public event - could be worded without encroaching on other valued rights, such as those of the press. But if we cannot have such a law protecting grieving relatives, then it would be nice to at least see the press respecting the relatives' emotional state, and refrain from publishing such pictures without the requirement of prohibitive laws. I don't see how such pictures are attractive for them in the first place. When I am reading articles about a recent crash, seeing photos of relatives in shambles does not attract me to read those particular stories. I often skip to the next news source, feeling pity and shame for the surviving relative's picture I just saw, and like I am encroaching on a deeply private moment.   

 

Regarding the mental state of relatives being integral to the story, I'd have to respectfully disagree. The crash of the airliner itself is certainly a public matter since it involves an airplane used by people all over the world, an airline conducting flights and selling tickets even as I write this, and an airport still accepting arriving passengers. The cause and nature of the crash have repercussions to the flying public, but I can't imagine how the personal experience of a relative in emotional despair has those kind of repercussions, or is knowledge that everyone should be privy to. Does it add to the depth of the story? I suppose to a certain degree it does allow us to know more about the families involved and the "human face" of such a loss. But the fact that the crash is emotionally devastating to surviving relatives is no surprise to anyone, and whether that emotional experience is shared with the entire world I personally think should be within the consent of those experiencing the loss. If relatives would like to contact a news company and tell the story of their loved ones - why they were on the airplane, where they were going, what their lives were about and why they were loved - I think that is a wonderful thing that helps people understand the true human loss of the crash. But that knowledge, and the knowledge of the pain experienced by the family, should be their right to share, not our right to dig into.   

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In the United States, there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, therefore there is no law broken. However, people should do the decent thing and allow people to have their privacy in a time of grieving.

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My initial and not really thought out response, is that whilst there may or may be no laws governing this and again depending on the country you are in, I would have thought it a moral or ethic issue.Where the media posture is positioned appears to be, nearly always, seriously separated from any ethic or moral issues.

 

I simply cannot fathom why they think this is an attractive item for the general public.  Anybody who is not aware that any death or deaths has an inherent grieving factor which is normally a very private thing, is like the media, seriously separated from reality.

 

Tony, thank you for your thoughtful reply as well. There really isn't a right or wrong answer to this issue, but I'm glad to be a member of a forum community that can discuss its ramifications with thoughtfulness and maturity, regardless of the various opinions bound to be raised. Your contribution is appreciated. 

 

I feel very much the same way you do, and I think you raise good points. Regardless of the actual laws on the books, this does seem to be very much a moral/ethical issue and it is the divorcing of the press and its moral/ethical standards I find to be the most disappointing. I cannot fathom why they think this is an attractive item for the general public either. When I see pictures of people who just moments ago heard their relatives died in a plane crash I can only imagine myself in their position and what I imagine is wanting to crawl into a very small hole, away from all the prying cameras. Waking up the next morning to an existence void of their loved one is bad enough, to see their own tearful faces slapped on the cover of every paper around the world must make the experience so much worse, like throwing salt on a very open wound. 

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