Chief of the Defence Force - Letter to News Limited CEO Kim Williams
4 July 2012
Dear Mr Williams,
I am extremely disappointed that News Limited editors have ignored the express wishes of a grieving family and chosen to publish the name of the Australian Special Forces soldier who was killed in Afghanistan this week before the soldier's name was officially released.
We must not forget that an Australian Defence Force member who is killed in action is a person who has a family struggling to come to terms with the devastating news. In the initial hours and days that follow, they are consumed by grief and in many cases they are in shock.
The ADF and Army have clearly defined mechanisms to fulfill our public interest responsibility to inform the Australian people but these are necessarily driven by the wishes and decisions of the family members. Our primary concern must always be for the family's welfare.
In this particular instance, the family requested that Defence withhold the soldier's name to allow them time to contact extended family and friends. I am dismayed to think that relatives or friends may have learnt about this man's death in a newspaper.
At least one media outlet contacted Defence to discuss whether it was appropriate to publish the soldier's name. News Limited did not and this decision prompted other agencies to follow.
I accept that some members of the ADF have provided the journalist with details about their comrade but would argue that the media had a moral obligation to handle this information responsibly and uphold the family's request for time to grieve for a man they love.
D.J. HURLEY, AC, DSC
Chief of the Defence Force
4 July 2012