Legal and ethical concerns

Among the most important challenges surrounding the filming and recording of individuals are legal and ethical concerns. The tale "Australia's Shame," a narration of the Four Corners (2016), reveals aspects of legal and ethical frameworks such as "infringement of privacy," "access limits and rights," and "libel and slander," just like other television or media presentations. By implementing some of these mechanisms, media firms and film production companies fulfill their primary role of protecting the public from undesired or unjustifiable publications. Despite the fact that the law appears to be ambiguous on techniques that promote people's privacy, Four Corners has worked tirelessly to preserve interviewees' privacy and interests (Good, 2007). The steps taken by filmmakers to regulate the kind of information that reach members of the public is a demonstration of the growing need to protect the privacy and interests of people during recording or filmmaking. This paper, therefore, debates the legal and ethical issues surrounding the filming and recording of the views presented by the witnesses and those who were directly involved the Australia's Shame.

Throughout years, courts have remained guided by the fact that citizens require legal protection from unjustified image and information publications. This aspect is equally explored in the case provided because both the filmmakers and presenters have tried to create a distinction between private and public individuals (Petreska & Topuzoska, 2015). Furthermore, the filmmakers have made a difference between publicly owned places and private areas of residence and confirms that the place of detention was a public institution and not a private home. At the beginning of the TV show, it appeared as if every individual linked to the detention would be accorded full protection. However, this does not happen because the "private" information in question (illegal detention of children) is an immoral act that must be brought to light for justice to prevail (Wiles, Prosser, Bagnoli, Clark, Davies, Holland, & Renold, 2008). It is essential for our thoughts to be guided by the following ethical questions: (1) should the police officers who were involved in children detention and molestation claim private information? (2) If they have a right to claim private information, does it mean they can sue the press for disclosing their hidden barbaric behaviors?

After watching the video presented by the Four Corners, one would agree to the common fact that other than informing members of the public about the secrets of Australian detention, the press played the major responsibility of ensuring that the privacy rights of those involved in such acts were protected. The media achieved this aspect, for example, by concealing the identity of police officers who were directly involved in the act (Petreska & Topuzoska, 2015). The news presenter, moreover, revealed the crucial role of a free press by focusing on a democratic system where every fact and hard pieces of evidence are given priority over mere speculations. Furthermore, the fact that the filming and recording team had to make sure that every information given was true to its course meant that they had to gather and disseminate the rights information to members of the public.

Before examining the ethical issues attached to the two fundamental questions, it is important to understand that the two common ways through which media invade people's privacy include intrusion and access. The case of Australia's children detention reveals a type of intrusion known as "intrusion on seclusion" (Wiles et al., 2008). A person can argue that the Four Corners was wrongly involved in overhearing, publication, and broadcasting of private images and videos that were taken from a non-public property. This act constitutes an invasion of privacy and presents a situation where there could be an ethical dilemma. Going by the principles underlying information privacy, we can argue that the action of the media amount to the invasion of privacy because even an average civilian or member of the public could have easily accessed the detention and witnessed the same activities. However, it could be hard to argue out the case of intrusion in case the filmmakers did not use the telephoto lens and directional microphones to take images and record information. As a matter of fact, the images and information that were used by the Four Corners were obtained from the CCTV footage, and this equally makes the case of intrusion hard to argue out.

It is also true that things have changed, and trespassing onto a property without official invitation or taking information from a sophisticated surveillance equipment without the permission of the people in charge is unethical (Petreska & Topuzoska, 2015). It is evident that the police officers in charge of the detention camp did not authorize the use of CCTV footages and could have possibly claimed that the all the occurrences captured and presented by the Four Corners were stage-managed. The best procedure, therefore, would involve asking permission from the relevant authorities to record interviews and take videos. However, this could not have given the exact kind of information that the news presenters wanted (Petreska & Topuzoska, 2015). Such an action is contrary to many media laws, which demands that only one party should know that a conversion has been tapped or a video footage has been recorded. However, for some states, there is a need for both parties engaging in a conversation or interview must know that a conversation is being recorded or videotaped (Good, 2007). Where the media law authorizes a conversation to be recorded or videotaped, it would be wrong for a third person, apart from law enforcers acting on a court order, to retrieve such conversation for whatever purpose. Therefore, we can confidently state that, to some extent, the Four Corners acted out of order by retrieving information from the children detention camp and making every video public.

Apart from the intrusion, the filming and recordings reveal cases of "access," which is equally an important areas of the law that is often experienced by filmmakers and news reporters. Specific to the Australia's children detention camp is the issue of "access to the location." On the perspective of access, we can state that the Four Corners did not break the law since the detention was not a private property (Shaw, 2012). Moreover, there are no pieces of evidence showing that the reporters and filmmakers interfered with the normal functions of the police in the department or created public unrest. In other words, it way okay for the media group to film the criminal scenes under the stated conditions. Despite these arguments, it is important to understand that any member of the press only has legal privileges within those allowed to other members of the general public (Wiles et al., 2008). This means that beyond certain limits, the access law may not hold in which case the press team assumes the legal responsibility associated with any form of damage.

Even though the information presented by the Four Corners are undoubtedly true based on the hard pieces of evidence such as video tapes and sound recording given, it is always hard to present a one hundred percent true statement. Media filming and recording are often characterized by exaggerated statements and false information that occur during reporting. False information amount to defamation cases and in most cases punishable by the law (Wiles et al., 2008). Therefore, the media team must work to ensure that the information presented does not amount to cases of negligence on the part of filmmakers or new presenters. Even the so-called "honest mistake" can lead to a legal action against the filmmakers. Despite the evidences presented, it can still be demonstrated that the Four Corners' story of Australian children detention was politically stage managed in which case the organization together with the news reporters would be charged for spreading false statements that are injurious to someone's name and professional activities of a specific group (Wiles et al., 2008). While making filming and recording, the press must be careful to issues of negligence that may tarnish the good information that was meant to improve the welfare of the particular group. Negligence according to the prevailing case may range from lack of concentration or not take into consideration facts of the case to carelessness or disregard for more accurate information.

It, however, seems that the Four Corners reporters felt that the story was worth the risk of being put under police custody and developed the urge to air this particular story. Such desire is among the key reasons why governments and policy makers have come up with laws restricting the privileges of the press and filmmakers (Shaw, 2012). To sum up, it would be important if the Four Corners, during filmmaking and video recording, was guided by the following six questions:

Was the information retrieved from the Australia's child detention camp accessible to any other average citizen or person visiting the camp? If in case such information and details were classified, them it means that the filmmakers intruded or illegally acquired all the information that they ended up releasing to members of the public.

Were the filmmakers give permission by the relevant police officers to search and retrieve such types of information? If in case there was no permission granted, then it follows that the filmmakers and news reported acted out of order.

Did the filming team, at one point, felt that they were breaking the law by illegally accessing private information while in the real sense they could have asked to be given a change to study and make their reports? If so, then police officers could still argue their case out and deny all the allegations.

Was the information regarding the relationship between children detainees and police officers newsworthy and of legitimate concern to the general public?" If so, then it was appropriate for the Four Corners to film the conditions the children detainees in Australia were going through.

Did the investigation of the media team involve prying? As far as filming and media recording is concerned, prying is unethical and illegal act that is based on inappropriate and highly offensive snooping behavior.

Was the content of the information and video something of private nature? It could be true that the information that was given by the media was highly classified. However, getting this information to members of the public was necessary because it helped save the lives of children that were under detention.

Other than the foregoing legal and ethical issues, the ethical dilemma in the case provided could be resolved by providing a solution to these the following two fundamental questions: (1) should the police officers who were involved in children detention and molestation claim private information? (2) If they have a right to claim private information, does it mean they can sue the press for disclosing their hidden barbaric behaviors?

On the first issue, it is importantly noted that police officers operate as laws enforcers and should make public all issues affecting the lives of citizens. The fact that the children were put under detentions could have meant that they were threats to members of the public. Under normal circumstances, any criminal act committed by an individual or groups of individuals is brought before the court for appropriate judgment before the person of individuals are put under detention. However, the case of Australia children camp presents a different scenario as those children in detention had not been taken to any court or given the opportunity to defend their positions. As a matter of fact, these were minors who should have been put under proper management and not under such harsh environments. Therefore, it is not appropriate for the police officers who were involved in children detention to claim private information. In this regards, it was necessary for the press to search and compile a report that could be used to show the barbaric behavior of police officers. Claiming a right to private information would mean that the detained children were to undergo the same problems as long as they were still under the management of these police officers. The detention camp was not a private institution, and the issues that the children were facing could only be addressed faster if they got the attention of members of the public and human right activists.

On the second point, the fact that the police officers were not entitled to private information means that they did not have the legal right to sue the press on any account of defamation, negligence, or malice. Furthermore, the press gave a general account of what was going on within the detention camp without give a false light. The news reporter did not place an identifiable police officer within the context of the topic, and this means that there was no a specific individual whose image or reputation was affected. In other words, the filming remained within the legal framework as there was no creation of a false link between a specific prison guide and viewers or members of the public. The filming and recording team ensured that the police officers remained anonymous throughout the presentation. Even after discovering a definite error during the broadcast, the media team still had the chance of making an immediate corrective statement in the form of an apology.


Four Corners (2016). Australia's Shame (Don Dale). Retrieved from

Good, H. (2007). Journalism ethics goes to the movies. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Petreska, E., & Topuzoska, L. (2015, November). The Ethical Principles of Media Reporting In the Republic Of Macedonia. In Proceedings from the (p. 197).

Shaw, D., (2012). Morality and the movies: Reading ethics through film. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Wiles, R., Prosser, J., Bagnoli, A., Clark, A., Davies, K., Holland, S., & Renold, E. (2008). Visual ethics: Ethical issues in visual research.

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