Following public outrage and a petition signed by nearly 28,000 people, Australian tabloid The Courier Mail has officially issued an apology of its sensationalistic and sexualized coverage of a transgender woman's murder, reports Australian LGBT news site Same Same.
In early October, 27-year-old Mayang Prasetyo was discovered dead in her apartment in Teneriffe, Brisbane. Her body was reportedly dismembered and scattered about her home, with some pieces cooking on a stove. Born on the Indonesian island of Bali, Prasetyo worked as a chef on cruise ships and had married a fellow chef, 28-year-old Marcus Peter Volke, less than a year before her murder.
When police arrived at the crime scene, responding to a report of a suspicious odor, Volke immediately fled. He climbed in a large bin and fatally cut his own throat before he could be arrested. Officials consider Volke to be Prasetyo's killer.
After details of the gruesome crime made news on October 6, Brisbane News Corp publication The Courier Mail ran a lurid cover and article with a large photo of Prasetyo posing in a bikini. The coverage included labels many trans advocates consider slurs, running with the cover headline "Monster Chef and the She Male" and internal headline "Ladyboy and the Butcher," and emphasizing Prasetyo's history as a sex worker.
"It's disgusting, it's just sensationalism, it's dehumanizing a trans woman," Melody Moore, a coordinator for Trans Health Australia, told the Brisbane Times in response to the Courier Mail's coverage. "She is the victim here and they are vilifying, stigmatizing, and dehumanizing the victim, making her look like she's just as bad as her sick boyfriend."
"Trans women struggle to be accepted as women and the term she-male is very derogatory," Moore added. She was joined by hundreds on social media who criticized the Courier Mail's word choices and decision to run photos of the deceased in revealing swimwear.
Despite the newspaper's subsequent change in headline to "Killed and cooked trans woman was high-class sex worker" and a tepid non-apology acknowledging that Prasetyo's life should be remembered fondly, trans advocates pushed for a more public mea culpa.
Now, nearly three weeks after the incident, the Courier Mail finally issued a more direct apology on page 62 of Saturday's Brisbane Daily, including an invitation to the Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland to submit an article stating their views, reports Same Same.
However, the tabloid still attempted to justify its original actions, stating, "Every mainstream media outlet in Queensland had published identical facts about Mayang and her killer's gender and profession as well as the same pictures.We responded at the time, restating that Mayang was the innocent victim of a dreadful crime, and that publication of the details of her life and murder were never in any way intended to disrespect her or upset her family. Her mother, who we were in contact with through the week, never expressed offense."
Following the apology, activists are still collecting signatures on their petition, asking that the Courier Mail adhere to its Code of Conduct on all future coverage of stories related to sex workers and transgender people.