Friday, September 06, 2013

Australia:  Must not report that an autistic person is autistic

THE following adjudication has been issued by the Australian Press Council:

The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article published on the site on 23 November 2012, titled "Autistic man convicted of murdering WA mum". It concerned the conviction on that day of a man for the murder of his mother.

The first sentence read: "An autistic Perth man has been convicted of murdering his mother whose body has never been found". A later passage stated that he "stood in the dock and kept his head down during the proceedings, as he has done during most of his trial and court appearances. Justice McKechnie described [the man] as 'unusual' and ordered both a psychiatric and psychological report ahead of sentencing." The judge made no reference on that day to the man's autism but seven months earlier his autism had been discussed in a separate hearing on the man's fitness for trial and been mentioned in the judgment.

The complainant said identification of the man as autistic in the headline and first paragraph of the article was gratuitous and implied that his condition was a contributing factor to the murder. His complaint was about the prominence of the references to autism, especially as it had not been mentioned in the judgment. The complainant said that he was autistic and after the article was published, people had spoken to him as if they thought it meant he was also capable of the kind of act described.

Taking into account the judge's earlier decision on the man's fitness to stand trial and the references to autism at that time, the Council considers that it was justifiable to make some mention of autism when reporting the outcome of the trial itself. However, the headline and the first sentence were likely to have led many readers to conclude that autism had been found to be the main cause of the murder, or at least one of the causes. Nothing in the remainder of the article would have corrected this misunderstanding.



Brian from Rochester NY said...

Maybe it's just me, but all that headline would be telling me was that a man with autism was convicted of murder. I would not make the leap to consider all autistic people to be potential murderers. Are we really that far gone?

This is almost as bad as the people who complained about the the new Matrix movie because two of the villains were albino. They argued that others would start thinking all albinos are evil.

A little logical thinking is all it takes, people. Stop these knee-jerk reactions and think it through before you open you mouth and prove how foolish you are.

Anonymous said...

"Are we really that far gone"?

No Brian, we've gone much further than that, and we've left rational and logical thought way behind.

stinky said...

Man convicted of assault.

[All men are all thugs!]

Woman convicted of shoplifting.

[All women are thieves!]

Commenter makes light of news story.

[All commenters are wise-asses!]

Anonymous said...

I disagree in this case you don't say a cancerous man committed a crime. The autism has nothing to do with the case. It could have easily been mentioned in the article that he has Autism but he is a person with Autism not an Autistic person.