Entertainment & Arts

Sky News MH17 crash report case escapes censure

Ukrainian officials at the MH17 crash site Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down MH17

A Sky News report in which Colin Brazier rummaged through belongings at the MH17 plane crash site in Ukraine has escaped censure by Ofcom.

The media watchdog investigated after the report drew 205 complaints.

Live footage from Ukraine, broadcast on 20 July, showed Mr Brazier pluck items from an open suitcase.

Ofcom said that while his actions could have caused offence, it also had to regard the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression.

After Mr Brazier handled the items, he was seen dropping them back into the luggage saying "we shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really".

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on 17 July.

All 298 people on board were killed.

The crash left bodies strewn across several kilometres, as well as plane wreckage and passengers' belongings.

Mr Brazier's broadcast showed an array of luggage and personal items, which he described as "holiday paraphernalia".

Ofcom noted that Mr Brazier appeared to almost immediately regret his actions and expressed this to viewers.

Image copyright Sky News
Image caption Sky News reporter Colin Brazier said that the circumstances of the Ukraine crash site were unique

Nonetheless, Ofcom concluded that "these actions were capable of causing considerable offence and this was not mitigated by an immediate broadcast apology.

"On balance we therefore considered that the offence was not justified by the context."

But the regulator said it had to take into account that "news crews reporting from the crash site found themselves reporting from an unusual and emotionally charged situation.

"The editorial decisions taken by reporters were particularly challenging, especially when made in the context of a live report broadcast on a rolling news channel."

Ofcom also recognised that Sky News and Mr Brazier apologised in the hours following the broadcast and that Sky had updated its guidelines for journalists in the light of this event.

The watchdog concluded that "despite the offence caused in this case, Ofcom considered that this brief but significant lapse of judgement by a news reporter should not prevent journalists from reporting live on sensitive and challenging news stories."

In the balance of these findings, the watchdog considered the matter resolved.

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