Publication Details

Blackall, D. "Camera journalism - ethical and legal hazards." Precedent .117 July/August (2013): 34-39.

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Lawyers Alliance


There are many legal and ethical obstacles that film-based journalists must consider before moving their product to completion.

Sometimes restraint on broadcast is beyond the control of producers, when a program is restrained unexpectedly due to the likelihood of it prejudicing court proceedings. While producers have no control over suppression orders, disastrous outcomes can be minimised and the chance of legal action decreased, through ongoing dialogue and informed consent with camera subjects. Where a situation justifies reduced informed consent, or when deceit is overwhelmingly in the public interest, producers need an ethical forum, an ethics committee, to discuss and document the process. This helps to ensure that the process is accountable and transparent, with record-keeping of legal guidance and consultation along the way. What follows are case studies that illustrate how ethical and legal considerations of camera journalism are most often intricately related. Each of these cases needed highly focused consideration prior to filming, and again before the final edit could proceed to broadcast or film festival screening.