A Queensland newspaper that used an image of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in the crosshairs of a rifle with the words “Anna, you’re next” had the potential to trigger violence against her, the Australian Press Council has found.
The offending Sunshine Coast Daily front page, which showed a photograph of the Premier’s face next to another headline saying “Labor rout puts Premier in crosshairs”, went beyond political comment and showed Ms Palaszczuk as being the subject of potential significant violence, the council said.
The Queensland government complained to the press council after the publication, which came in the aftermath of Labor’s dismal federal election result in the state.
Among those to complain about the image was senior Nationals MP Darren Chester, who called it an “appalling editorial decision”.
Acting Queensland police minister Craig Crawford described it as “an invitation to shoot the Premier”.
Despite the outcry, the paper initially stood by the front page. However, the next day, editor Craig Warhurst publicly apologised for it.
“I agree it was a poor choice of imagery on the front page,” he said.
“We could have got the message across in a different way.”
The newspaper maintained it had never intended to incite violence against the Premier nor encourage violence.
In its complaint, the state government said Ms Palaszczuk felt her safety had been compromised by the crosshairs across her image, and that it was inappropriate for any publication to ever publish any such image.
Ms Palaszczuk was satisfied with the eventual apology. However, the government noted delays in the newspaper removing the image from its digital platforms.
The press council ruled that the post-election article went beyond political comment and showed Ms Palaszczuk as the subject of potential significant violence.
“This could have been taken by some readers as condoning violence against the Premier or had the potential to trigger violence against the Premier.” it said.
“In this respect, the publication failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to the health and safety without a justifiable public interest.”
The press council said the decision to publish the image was “deeply regrettable”, as well as the initial refusal to apologise and the delay in removing it from digital platforms.
“However, the council welcomes the prominent apology by the publication and its subsequent action in addressing the complaint,” it said.
The Sunshine Coast Daily published the full ruling online on Monday.