The APC said that it often receives complaints expressing concern about articles naming a particular drug in detail, especially if it has been used to describe a method of suicide or death. It felt that while this case is not connected with a suicide, providing detail could prompt imitative behaviours among vulnerable people. Would the Guardian consider amending the stories to remove the names? As a result of the APC's concern, a colleague from the readers' editor's office contacted Samaritans in London, which shared the same view as the council. It advised against naming the drugs. This had now become a matter of trying to resolve a difficult ethical question; not on one continent but on three. And the question was not unreasonable.The question? Why, merely 'How dare the 'Guardian' be so gauche as to name the drugs used in the execution of a murdering scumbag.' Because 'vulnerable people' might think it a good way to off themselves.
No. I wish I was making this up!
I discussed the issues with relevant editors via email. We concluded that that there was a countervailing public interest in naming the drugs to explain what was happening in these botched executions.As I already explained, executions are meant to kill people. So this one was hardly 'botched'...
I felt that in key stories it would be impossible for readers to evaluate how badly these judicial killings were being handled if the drugs were only described as drug A or drug B. But that didn't mean we should give details of doses or availability, or repeat the names in every story, which the Guardian has avoided.Does he really expect any 'Guardian' audience to disagree that a judicial killing was badly handled anyway?
An Australian Press Council spokesman said: "In the Oklahoma execution matter, we understand why the particular drugs used might have needed to be mentioned for US readers. But for Australia there appears to have been no such need. We note that one newspaper omitted the drug names but mentioned in broad terms what each drug was used for ie what medical conditions they could be used to treat.'No details please, we're Aussies!'
"We are also keenly interested in the broader issue you raise as to the difficulties in ensuring adherence to standards of good practice in journalism when a story may originate in one jurisdiction and be transmitted all around the world."Well, yes. Surely even the 'Guardian' can't expect to be able to cover the peculiar sensibilities of every nation with an Internet connection, can it?