THE Australian Press Council (APC) has branded the Courier Mail’s coverage of murder victim and Brisbane trans woman Mayang Prasetyo last year as “gratuitous” and in breach of several council standards.
The newspaper’s headline “Monster Chef and the She Male” along with coverage that detailed her occupation as a sex worker, a photo of Prasetyo wearing a bikini and usage of the term “ladyboy”, drew nationwide condemnation of the tabloid as “sickening”, “despicable” and “appalling”.
[showads ad=MREC]Prasetyo was killed by her partner Marcus Volke in a gruesome murder/suicide case in October last year.
The APC published its ruling on the matter today, declaring the Courier Mail breached two standards with its coverage but found it had not broken a third regarding a right of reply.
The Courier Mail defended its usage of transphobic language including “she male” and “ladyboy”, saying that those were terms Prasetyo had used herself generally and in her sex work advertising. The paper said “ladyboy” was a “term applied regularly to transsexuals in Asia”.
While the use of a photo of Prasetyo in swimwear and its placement on the front page also attracted criticism, the paper said that image and others were taken from her public Facebook page. The Courier Mail added that she had told friends she was “proud” of them and had used them to promote herself for work.
The Courier Mail eventually responded to the criticism, acknowledging that its coverage “evidently caused offence” and in response to the APC’s enquiries, had taken steps to address community concerns.
“Many believe that yesterday we presented Mayang’s story in a way that was disrespectful to her memory,” the newspaper stated in October.
“The Courier Mail had no intention of diminishing the value of Mayang’s life, or to add to the grief being felt by her family.”
In addition, the paper published a piece by the Transgender Support Association Queensland and several other critical letters.
The Courier Mail was also condemned for appearing to sensationalise Prasetyo’s profession as a sex worker.
“This is a case of domestic violence and a victim of crime situation. How someone described themselves in terms of an occupation is irrelevant,” Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Golder told the Star Observer in October.
“Hypothetically, put it the other way around: would there have been a description ‘cis-gender bank teller killed’ or ‘gender-expected hairdresser killed?’ Of course not.
“This is primarily a story about murder, victims of crime and domestic violence. If there was transphobia behind the alleged crime, then report that, but not just the gender identity issue in itself.”
In its defence the Courier Mail told the APC it believed publishing her profession was of public interest as it was a part of Prasetyo’s background and investigation into her death, and therefore a legitimate detail to report.
However, the APC ruled that this contributed to the offence it had caused the trans* and wider community.
“The Council considers that the prominent treatment given to the victim’s gender, and the repetitive detail of her sex work, was gratuitous and contributed to the substantial offence caused by the terminology used to describe the murder victim,” the APC stated.
“This was not sufficiently warranted in the public interest. For the same reasons, Ms Prasetyo’s death was presented in a manner that was not reasonably fair and balanced.”
The APC also found that the Courier Mail had breached standards relating to “reasonable fairness and balance” and that “writers’ expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts.”
The APC added that the paper had breached a standard that ensures editorial does not cause or contribute to “offence, distress or prejudice”.
However, it acknowledged that the Courier Mail had taken steps to address to complaints, implement measures to improve reporting standards and allowed “a fair opportunity” for a right of reply.[showads ad=FOOT]