Self-harm and suicide coverage in Sri Lankan newspapers: An analysis of the compliance with recommended guidelines
Sorensen, J.B., Pearson, M., Andersen, M.W., Weerasinghe, M., Rathnaweera, M., Rathnapala, D.G.C., ... Konradsen, F.
Background: Irresponsible media reporting may influence suicidal behavior. Adherence to guidelines for responsible reporting of suicide has not been examined in Sri Lanka in recent times. Aims: To examine the quality of reporting on self-harm and suicide in Sri Lankan newspapers and compare the quality between Sinhala and English newspapers. Method: From December 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015, 407 editions of newspapers were screened. Reporting quality was measured using the PRINTQUAL tool. Results: We identified 68 articles covering an episode of self-harm or suicide (42 Sinhala and 26 English). The majority of articles were noncompliant with guidelines for sensitive reporting. Indicators of noncompliance included that newspaper articles frequently reported method in the headline (53%), included detailed characteristics of the individual (100%), used insensitive language (58% of English articles), and attributed a single-factor cause to the self-harm (52%). No information about help-seeking was included. Limitations: The study involved a relatively short period of data collection. Including social media, Tamil language newspapers, and online publications would have provided additional understanding of reporting practices. Conclusion: The majority of Sri Lankan newspapers did not follow the principles of good reporting, indicating a need for further training of journalists.