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Reporting suicide in New Zealand: Time to end censorship

Volume 19, Issue 2

October, 2013

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Hollings, J. (2013). Reporting suicide in New Zealand: Time to end censorship. Pacific Journalism Review, 19(2), 136-155.
Author(s): James Hollings
Publication date: 
October, 2013

New Zealand is unique in its legislative restrictions on news media reporting of suicide, with criminal penalties for breaches. Recently, in response to ongoing controversy about the effectiveness of the law in preventing imitative suicides, the government announced a review of the relevant legislation, the Coroners Act 2006. This article discusses the history of suicide reporting restrictions in New Zealand, suggests they amount to censorship, and furthermore argues that the suicide media discourse here has not taken account of nuances in suicide research which do not support such restrictions, but do justify voluntary moderation of reporting, in line with comparable OECD countries. Also, it argues that current suicide research is based on an outdated conception of media effects, which does not consider adequately the opportunity for public good messages.