Yemen Observer: http://www.yobserver.com
Written By: Staff Editor
Article Date: Jun 19, 2007 - 1:00:55 AM
Photos are a very powerful way to convey news. One image can express the reality of a battlefield, the torment of a mourner, or the triumph of an athlete more eloquently, often, than words. Take Vietnamese-American photographer Nick Ut’s 1972 photograph of a Vietnamese girl, running naked from her napalm-bombed village. Phan Thj Kim Phuc, 9, her mouth open in a scream of horror, was running from a smoke-blackened place, her back severely burned by napalm. This became an iconic image of the Vietnam War.
It shook the world, bringing home the brutal reality of what was going on in Vietnam. It was an important photograph, because it showed the public an uncomfortable truth, vividly depicting the agony of civilians caught in the crosshairs of the conflict. But this does not mean that newspapers and magazines should cavalierly splash violent or gruesome photographs across their pages, especially the front page. A photograph must be absolutely essential to the full telling of a story for it to be included. We are firmly against the publishing of gratuitously graphic photographs of violence on the cover of a paper.
The front pages of newspapers and magazines are easily accessible to anyone strolling by a newsstand, which includes the youngest and most impressionable of us. One horrific image can have an enormous impact on a young mind, a mind not yet equipped to understand and process such images. Even we adults can be traumatized by a particularly explicit image of gore. Worse, if we see violent images every single day, in the papers we pick up to read over breakfast, we will come to think of such savagery as less shocking, or even a normal course of events. Thus desensitized to violence, we will perhaps be less likely to feel compelled to take action to prevent it.
We could even come to think of violence as an acceptable way to solve problems. Thus, we have a responsibility to be very, very selective about the images we display on our pages. This brings us to the recent decisions of several newspapers to publish of the bloody photographs of an Ibb man named Hamoud al-Raei, who was recently shot to death in a revenge killing. There is no reason for this photograph to be published on the front page of a newspaper.
It does nothing to further our understanding of the story or the man’s death, and the image is certainly not one we should be carelessly presenting to our children. We urge all media—print and broadcast—to put serious thought into the images they show the world. An eloquent photograph of the aftermath of a bombing may be necessary to convey its devastation, but photographs of mutilated murder victims are unlikely to be particularly enlightening.