Sian Williams: it was wrong to use photo of UKIP politician Steven Woolfe

The Channel 5 newsreader questions the ethics of running a photograph showing the politician immediately after the altercation in Strasbourg that put him in hospital

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Former BBC Breakfast host and Channel 5 newsreader Sian Williams has spoken out against the decision by various news outlets to run a photograph of UKIP politician Steven Woolfe in the moments following the attack that left him in hospital.

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Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Williams observed that journalism can get “too close” to events, adding, “sometimes I think we put a camera where we shouldn’t.”

She went on to cite yesterday’s reported attack on Steven Woolfe which saw the UKIP politician taken to a Strasbourg hospital in what was initially thought to be a life threatening condition following an alleged punch-up during a row at a party meeting in the French city.

ITV News obtained a picture of Woolfe sprawled on the floor, seemingly unconscious, an image that was subsequently run by various broadcasters and news outlets.

Williams – who is the main presenter of 5 News at 5 – revealed she “had a conversation in the office” about the photograph and whether it should be used.

“When it came in, I was watching it on television – I saw it on ITV, the picture – and this was when we thought he was in a very serious condition, a life-threatening condition, and I said, ‘You can’t run that picture. We cannot run it – this is a man who may die, who is in a life threatening condition.’ Why does the audience, why do any of us, need to see this? We don’t – we don’t need to see him suffering.”

Asked by chair and fellow broadcaster Libby Purves whether she won, Williams answered: “I did, actually. But I don’t always because when you’re in an office full of journalists you get healthy debate across the newsroom.

She added: “I think the thing that made the difference actually was that [Woolfe] then said that he was fine and once we knew he was fine, it was a safe picture to use.

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“I think at the time it was used, it should not have been used because we thought he might not get through and I think we get too close.”