Photojournalist PTSD case against The Age

Photojournalist PTSD case against The Age

We recently concluded the evidence in a Supreme Court damages claim made on behalf of a photojournalist against her former employer The Age.

This Plaintiff (who's name has been suppressed), suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after working as a photographer for many years. Her PTSD arose after she was required to photograph over 20 families who had lost loved ones in the Bali bombings in an anniversary story published in October 2003.

It is alleged that The Age knew, or should have known, that its journalists were at risk of suffering stress when required to cover distressing news stories such as this, and despite such knowledge, it did not have a system in place to protect its workers and minimise the risk of those journalists suffering psychiatric injury.

In the 2 weeks of evidence, the Plaintiff's lawyers called 16 witnesses, including evidence from 2 former work mates who described the distressing nature of covering the Bali bombing anniversary story, as it involved speaking to many people who were still grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Evidence was also called from a range of academics and psychiatrists as to the knowledge that existed in 2002 to 2005 regarding the risk of stress to journalists exposed to trauma. Such experts spoke about the concept of vicarious trauma where the trauma is experienced through observing another person's suffering.

There were 2 international witnesses called via video link from London. Both spoke about the benefits of trauma awareness training to managers, and in particular in media organisations, such as the BBC. Both witnesses also spoke about the value of a peer support programme in a work place where employees are exposed to trauma.

Evidence was also given from a representative from Ambulance Victoria who described to the court the peer support programme it has had in place for many years.

Closing submissions will be made in the case on Wednesday 12 December and the Judge will then reserve her judgment.

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