The media and military deaths

When there’s been an operational military death, there may be some media interest. This guide goes through what families can expect from the media and military deaths.

Often when there’s been an operational military death, there may be some media interest.

This can be really difficult for families and friends. It can be tricky to avoid, and the publicity can be very upsetting. You may feel that the death is a public event, rather than something private.

You don’t have to deal with the media alone – there is help available.

The Services have media press offices. They manage the media when a service person has died.

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.

It’s important to remember that the media can’t be ignored.

Families should be aware that information that goes online cannot be controlled and is public. Your family and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) can’t control what people put online, even if it’s upsetting. The media will access these social media and tribute sites to gather information.

Before the media contacts you

  • Prepare a short statement that could be released to the media. You might want to prepare a photo too. You can provide this to the VO, who can include this in the initial media release. This may be painful to do, especially in the early days. However, it could be helpful in the long term.
  • Chat to family members and your friends. Let them know your wishes around talking to the media.
  • Decide on who is going to be the family point of contact for the media.
  • Put a simple note on your front door. This may help you avoid unwelcome press intrusion.

When the media contacts you

  • Ask for proof of identity, along with contact details for their publication. Write these down.
  • Ask them what they want. Remember, you can call them back when you’re ready to speak.
  • If you don’t feel confident, you don’t have to speak to them. Leave it to the VO or AIASC to deal with them.
  • Don’t share details until you’re completely confident you know who they are and have an agreement on what you’ll talk about. 
  • Don’t mention anyone else.
  • Try not to let them fluster you, even if they try to get you to answer their questions quickly.
  • Don’t let them push you, even if they say they have a deadline.
  • Try not to make political statements.
  • Don’t sign any media agreements without advice.
  • Avoid live interviews. If you do give a live interview, make sure you have the questions they are going to ask first. Allow time to prepare for them.
  • Ask to see the story before it goes to print
  • Remember, you can withdraw your story at any time before it goes to print.

Most of the media are compassionate and considerate, so don’t feel frightened. Just be aware sometimes what you say is not necessarily what will be in the story.

Advice on the media is available from the MOD Press Office. You can call them on: 0207 218 7907.

Media intrusion and complaints process

You may not want to co-operate with the media – may find their interest in you, or the person who died, intrusive or distressing. If you feel like this, tell your VO. They may not be able to prevent the intrusion, but they can take steps to reduce the level of invasion and provide advice.

For example, it may be possible to persuade the editor of a media organisation to withdraw their comment. Complaints can be made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). They’re responsible for making sure that newspapers and magazines stick to the Editor’s Code of Practice. This covers 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 military deaths. If you have any complaints, you can reach out to them directly.

If you have serious concerns, you should call Ofcom on 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040.

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