IoS letters special: News photography (4 January 2009)

Share
Related Topics

As the full extent of the casualties in Gaza emerged last week, we invited readers to comment on our picture coverage. Some photographs were, we believed, too graphic to publish. We asked you if we should never publish pictures of the dead, or make each judgement on its merits. The overwhelming majority of readers argued for pictures to be used, however horrific their content. Extracts from some of these letters and emails are published here.

I have worked as a medical volunteer in Palestinian refugee camps under siege between 1982 and 1988 and have witnessed war, death and destruction. Filth, stench, dead and dying people, covered in dust, some with holes in them, others decapitated, others just large pieces of ragged tissue, an arm, a leg: this is the reality of war. If you do not show it, you are sanitising war.

Ben Alofs

Bangor, Wales

By not showing these images you are contributing to the violence. If people saw the real face of war they would rise up against their governments demanding a stop to this violence. This is censorship so that ordinary people do not get upset and take to the streets. You are helping the government to control the people.

David Sketchley

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

There was once a famous photo of a girl running naked after the US napalm attacks in Vietnam; did anyone ask that girl if she minded if she was broadcast abroad for all to see her distress to outline the barbarity of war? Didn't that photo help bring about the end of US involvement in napalm attacks? It also brought about her restoration to health.

Ruth Greening

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Photography is the instant history of the moment and I encourage you to use it frequently. As a citizen of the US, I am appalled and ashamed by the use of my tax dollars to murder Palestinian children. If the news media has photographs they do not use, they are no better than the criminals in Tel Aviv and Washington who encourage and lead the slaughter.

John Kirkman

Munster, Indiana, USA

Here in Australia we very rarely even hear about civilians being killed in the Middle Eastern conflicts... but they always focus on the Western casualties. But we all saw the trauma of 9/11 on all the mainstream media... as if only we in the West were under the threat of terrorism, whereas it is the US government and its allies that cause most conflicts and casualties. If the public saw what their governments have done or condoned, people might not be so supportive of them.

Evan Rees

via email

One picture says more than a thousand words,so we agree with you that each photograph should be judged on its merits.

Adriana Binova

via email

It was the television pictures of victims of the Sharpeville massacre that began the West's disgust with apartheid in South Africa, but when it saw young children being gunned down in the streets by the state police, that really got it involved by forgetting profit in favour of justice.

Robert Lalljie

via email

Thank you for opening a difficult, but ever-crucial debate about the publication of images of the deceased. Your newspaper must break away from this rather unnecessary taboo and consider the impact of publishing such imagery. For too long now we have come to accept that earthquakes, wars, etc are phenomena affecting only far-flung corners of the world.

Wasim Yunus

via email

Photographs reflecting death should be used, when necessary, to capture events, as they are only reflecting reality. The reader may even take some constructive action, such as demanding government action. Not showing such photographs is a form of unnecessary censorship.

John Grealis

via email

I was disgusted to see the shocking front page showing the destruction in Gaza. Whilst I can sympathise with the loss of life, as a national publication it is an obligation to your readers to show both sides of the story. When was the last time your reporters bothered to write a five-page spread on the same scale of destruction that goes on in Israel caused by Hamas terrorists?

Jan Crossman

South Ockendon, Essex

I can understand your concern about gratuitous use of people in distress, pain and suffering – war porn – but that's been going on since the invention of the camera. So keep showing things that challenge people's cosy ideas about the world and make them question preconceived ideas that might make them feel uncomfortable!

Michael Ramey

via email

I am haunted by the image of the little girl with war all over her face. What kind of reaction lets you know your picture has been successful in its endeavour? When I opened the paper and saw this beautiful, sad and damaged child, my heart broke a little bit more. I am a mother, and as such, feel very strongly for all other children caught in the stupid wars of man.

Joanna

Bath

Yes, you should show graphic pictures. Children are unlikely to see them (parents can exercise control) and the rest of us are adult enough to be shown the truth.

Trevor Hoyle

via email

Editorial policy should be to combat this Disneyfication of death by using your discretion in each situation. Clearly the image needs to be an important one to justify the invasion of privacy. But not to show what is happening makes it more likely to be repeated.

Mike Payne

via email

Modern technology allows us to receive a large volume of material very quickly. By 4pm last Saturday we had in excess of 300 images from that morning's assault on Gaza. Some images showing general wreckage and crowds, some showing injured people, the strongest being the image we used on the front. There were also a number of images showing dead and dismembered bodies, some of which were relatively mild in tone and others which were so horrific that I couldn't look at them any larger than thumbnails.

Two images in particular stood out (see above): one of the injured young girl, frightened but protected by adult hands and the image we used on the front page, of an injured man being helped away from the apocalyptic scene behind. We felt that after much deliberation the injured man said more about the scale of the attack.

In this job I frequently find myself drawn to the less horrific images, as they can tell us more about the people and their suffering than pictures which are more graphic and visceral. You may feel that this is sanitising the story, but it can be hard to feel empathy for someone we do not recognise. This doesn't mean we should shy away from violent images, but that they should be used with discretion and compassion.

Sophie Batterbury, Picture Editor

Correction

In "It's nappies at dawn on Mumsnet" (28 December), we wrongly attributed a comment to revjustaboutbelievesinsanta, when, in fact, they were the words of the online poster known as Dior.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?