The Media and the Death Penalty

  • Published 2007


In late 2005, the imminent execution in Singapore of a 25-year-old VietnameseAustralian man, Van Nguyen Tuong, dominated the Australian media. He was arrested at Singapore’s Changi Airport in December 2002, for carrying 396 grams of heroin, while in transit from Cambodia to Australia. Singapore has a mandatory death sentence for anyone arrested carrying over 15 grams of heroin. When Van Nguyen was hanged on 2 December 2005, he became the first Australian to be executed in 12 years.1 His lawyers kept his case out of the media, fearing negative coverage would alienate the Singapore government and endanger his chance of a reprieve. After legal appeals had failed, however, his case became a media sensation, and featured prominently in newspapers, on current-affairs programs, and on Internet sites for several weeks.2 Although a poll suggested that the Australian public was divided over Van Nguyen’s execution, the media coverage was overwhelmingly sympathetic to him.3 In response to publicity, candlelight vigils and other events protesting against his execution, and the death penalty, were staged around Australia. Church bells rang to mark the moment of his death, and his funeral, held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, drew more than a thousand mourners. Such outpourings of public compassion have become more common in the wake of the ‘global mourning’ that followed events such as the death of Princess Diana, 9/11 and the Bali bombings.4 But that such a ‘groundswell of public protest and grief’ occurred in response to the state execution of a previously unknown Vietnamese-Australian convicted of drug-smuggling — whose execution notably took place in Singapore rather than in Australia — calls for analysis.5

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{2007TheMA, title={The Media and the Death Penalty}, author={}, year={2007} }