Particularly in the case of operational deaths there may well be some media interest in those killed and their families and friends. Such interest may sometimes be difficult, even impossible, to avoid and such publicity may add to your distress and suffering. You may feel that the death becomes a public event rather than a private sorrow.
You don’t have to deal with the media alone – there is help available so do ask for it. The Services have media press offices that manage the media in events such as the death of a soldier. They will work with you through your Casualty Notifying Officer (CNO) and Visiting Officer (VO) and the various media organisations to meet an agreed level of access.
However, it is important to remember that the media play an important role in society and cannot be ignored.
Families should be aware that information placed on the web cannot be controlled and becomes very public. The media will access social networking and tribute sites and draw information from them. Neither family nor MOD can control what third parties may place on these sites and it can cause considerable distress.
Here are a few tips:
Prepare a short statement, although this may be painful to do in the early days, which could be released to the media, maybe with a photo you provide to the VO in the initial media release.
- Ask for proof of identity, the contact details for the publication they are representing - make a note.
- Advise family members and friends of your wishes regarding contact with the media.
- Decide on who is going to be the family point of contact for the media.
- Do not sign any agreement with the media without advice.
- A simple note on your front door may avoid unwelcome press intrusion.
- Never divulge details until you are completely confident that you know who you are talking to and what you have agreed to discuss.
- If you are not entirely confident do not speak to them. Leave it to the VO or AIASC to deal with the contact.
- Never mention anyone else.
- Ask them what they want and then call them back when you are able to speak with confidence.
- Do not allow them to fluster you and press you to respond quickly.
- Do not be pushed because of their deadlines.
- Avoid live interviews. If you do give a live interview make sure you have the questions they are going to ask first and allow time to prepare once you have them.
- Try not to be drawn on political statements.
- Ask to see the story before it goes to print.
- You can withdraw your story at any time up to it going to print.
Most of the media are compassionate and considerate so do not feel frightened. Just be aware that on occasions what you say is not necessarily what will appear.
Advice on the media is available from the MOD Press Office, telephone 0207 218 7907.
Media intrusion and complaints process
You may not be content to co-operate with the media, and you may find their interest in you, or the person who died, intrusive or distressing, if you do, you should tell your VO. They may not be able to prevent the intrusion, but they may be able to take steps to reduce the level of intrusion or provide advice on how to try and cope with it.
For example, it may be possible to persuade the editor of the media concerned to withdraw comment, or a complaint could be made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry. IPSO is responsible for ensuring that newspapers and magazines abide by the Editor's Code of Practice. The code covers issues relating to privacy, harassment and intrusion into grief.
A copy of the Code of Practice and details of how to complain are available at the IPSO website. Their helpline telephone number is 0300 123 2220.
Television and radio broadcasters should deal sensitively with these matters and complaints should be directed to them. If you have more serious concerns, you should contact Ofcom on or telephone on on 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040.