2017-74 Keeney vs Ottawa Citizen

Issue: use of sensitive photo

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A complaint about insensitive use of a photo has been resolved following mediation by the National NewsMedia Council of Canada.

Complainant Helen Keeney said she was shocked to see her daughter’s picture and a picture of a covered body on a stretcher, identified in the caption as her daughter’s body following her murder in October 2004. The complainant said the photos were disrespectful and brought sad memories to the family.

The photos and information were part of a story about a man convicted of killing a second victim some years after the death of the complainant’s daughter. The complainant argued the story “went into too much detail” about the killing, including specific details she was not told at the time of the 2004 crime against her daughter.

The photos were not violent or graphic in detail.

The newspaper spoke with the complainant to express sorrow for the upsetting memories invoked by the coverage. The paper explained to her that distress to the family was not intended, but that it was necessary to report the details in question because the same man who killed the complainant’s daughter was convicted of killing a man under similar circumstances.

The newspaper stated sympathy with the complainant and her family, but said there is compelling public interest in re-examining the case in light of the additional conviction. It said the story raised important questions about sentencing guidelines, individual judges’ discretion in sentencing and Canada’s parole and early release systems.

The complainant stated the hurt evoked by publishing the article was done, and admitted that no action by the paper would remedy that. She did ask that in future more regard is given to sensitivity toward family of victims when considering the public right to information.

The NNC considers this complaint to be resolved and the file to be closed.