Missing persons and working with the media

Learn about how Victoria Police can support you in talking to the media when addressing a missing family member or friend.

Always consult with the Victoria Police Media Unit and Missing Persons Squad before approaching media such as television, radio and newspaper.

Police may use media outlets to broadcast details about a missing person to try to obtain information and help from the public.  Police will usually encourage the use of media if the missing person is a young child, elderly person, has an urgent medical need or there are grave concerns for their safety and wellbeing.

Basic information for the media

The media will require basic information about the missing person, including their name, age, physical description, last known whereabouts and a recent photograph. With authority from the next of kin, this information may be published or broadcast in the media.

Information about the missing person is generally supplied to the media via a Media Release, which is prepared by the Victoria Police Media Unit and is distributed to television, radio and newspaper outlets.

Victoria Police will also send out an immediate notification known as a 'media alert', in the case of urgent matters (such as young children who have gone missing), to all media outlets and people registered to receive media alerts through Victoria Police.

Authority for Media Release information or image of missing person – this form gives authorisation to Victoria Police to release information and/or images of a missing person to any and all media outlets to assist in locating that person.

Talking to the media

A relative or close friend may act as a spokesperson if family of the missing person are too overwhelmed with emotion to answer questions from the media.  Alternatively, the police may provide someone to speak to the media on behalf of the family.

Some families and friends may decide to read a prepared statement rather than be interviewed and have to answer questions. If you are interviewed by the media, you may find it useful to have the police present at the media interview to provide additional information.  Prepare thoroughly for a media interview.

Information that can be mentioned about the missing person and case should first be discussed with the police.  In some situations, police may wish to keep some details out of the public arena, as certain information could hinder an investigation.

Please refer to the Media Guide for Families and Friends developed by Victoria Police to inform you about media behaviour and expectations to assist your family during this difficult period.

Dealing with intrusive media

If the media are being overly intrusive or disruptive you can request respect for privacy. If this fails, any problems should be discussed with police, who may be able to liaise with media about maintaining privacy wishes.