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Dealing with the media

If you or one of your family members is a victim of violent crime, the media may approach you to comment. This may happen any time, including just after the crime has been committed, or prior to, during, or after court proceedings.

Victims Services A guide to the media for victims of crime (PDF 616Kb) is designed to help if you or one of your family members have been the victim of a violent crime and the media approaches you for comments or an interview.

Information for victims and their family members

Do I have to speak to the media?

No, you do not have to speak to the media. In some circumstances, media reports may assist a police investigation, and in this case. You should talk with the Police Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of your case.

Should I seek advice before speaking to the media?

It is strongly recommended that you seek advice prior to speaking to the media.

This is because any comments you make to the media may impact on the police investigation and any subsequent criminal proceedings.

The media might also present your case differently to what you expect.

Once the matter does become public, you or your family may encounter unwanted attention. Publicity might mean that your children are the subject of comment or gossip at school. Also, you may find that once a matter is reported in the media, publicity or comment might occur at unexpected times, sometimes many years after the crime occurred.

Can I set conditions for any interview?

Yes, you can set conditions for any interview to protect your own and your family's privacy. You may also ask anyone who visits your home uninvited to leave, and you can call the police if they refuse to do so.

What can I do when dealing with the media?

Some things you may wish to consider in dealing with the media are whether you wish to give an interview, read out a statement, or simply release a written statement. You may not wish to deal with the media directly, but have someone else act as a go-between or spokesperson. If you do decide on an interview, you may want to think about what you will discuss as well as matters that you do not wish to make comment on. Be cautious about what is recorded or filmed, as once an interview is recorded, a photograph is taken or an event filmed, you have little control over how it is used.

You can set conditions to protect your privacy or safety. For instance, you could give an interview on condition that your face be obscured, your name not used or your voice altered, or you could stipulate no photographs in a newspaper interview.

What if the media approaches me but I do not wish to comment?

  • Get the name of the journalist and the news agency for which they work. Tell them politely that you do not wish to speak to them and that they should not contact you again. Say that you understand that there are Privacy Standards that provide that journalists should not unduly intrude on the privacy of individuals.
  • If you are at home and are too distressed to answer your door, pin a short note to it saying that you do not wish to speak to journalists and do not want to be disturbed.
  • Similarly, if you are being telephoned repeatedly and do not wish to speak to journalists, alter your answering machine message to say that only personal callers should leave a message as you are not speaking to any journalists.
  • Some people find it helpful to ask a friend or neighbour who is not closely associated with the story to deal with press enquiries. They can then answer your phone and door and either pass on a prepared statement or turn down requests for interviews.
  • If these measures fail and you feel that you are being harassed, you can contact the police who can assist. Or you may also make a complaint to the relevant media organisation.

Where can I get advice?

Police Service

The Police have their own guidelines and extensive experience in dealing with the media. Therefore, your first point of contact should always be the OIC of your case.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

If the case is heard in the Local Court, you can seek guidance from the police or the prosecutor about speaking to the media. If the case is heard in the District or Supreme Court, you can seek advice from the prosecutor about speaking to the media. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions also has guidelines for dealing with the media. Their Prosecution Policy and Guidelines are available on request and can be found on the website: www.odpp.nsw.gov.au

For further information, support or referral, you may also contact the Victims Access Line 1800 633 063, from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)

What do I do if have a complaint about the media?

If you are unhappy with the conduct of a particular news outlet, you can make a complaint directly to the News Director of that organisation or the Australian press council.

Web: www.presscouncil.org.au

Phone: (02) 9261 1930 or 1800 025 712.