Kenyans have come out in droves to condemn the New York Times after it published gory images of the attack that attracted a global outcry.
The New York Times carried gory photos of dead civilians slumped on the table after being shot as well as multiple photos of terrified civilians covered in blood being carted away by the security forces, immediately sparking off an online backlash, with some readers asking the publisher to pull them down the photos, because of their distasteful nature.
New York Times has released a statement to explain the reasons behind why they run away with the graphic and insensitive photos.
“We want to be respectful to the victims and to others affected by the attack. But we also believe it is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this. This includes showing pictures that are not sensationalized but give a real sense of the situation.
We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens – balancing the need for sensitivity and respect our mission of showing the reality of these events,” part of the statement posted by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, read.
Two major ethical issues were at play here, first, the responsibility of the New York Times to balance their desire to tell the story as vividly and as comprehensively as possible with their obligation to do no harm and to show humanity to the victims of violence. Showing the faces and bodies of the victims only seconds after the attack killing was extremely distressing for some viewers.
Secondly, the publisher, by carrying these high definition gory photos may have added to the Al Shabaab’s propaganda narrative, which would be rewarded by the multiplying effect of republication around the world.
The publisher is yet to delete the photos and stands by its story.
By wherever in the world, perhaps New York Times meant anywhere else apart from the US and the west since as a section of Kenyans noticed the publisher normally steers clear from covering terror attacks and insecurity in the US in a similar fashion
While covering the 911 terror attack, the New York Times didn’t carry a single gory photo of the incident despite thousands dying.
Similarly, in November 2018, while covering California mass shooting where 12 people were gunned down by a lone gunman, New York Times opted to simply carry a single photo of law enforcement officers outside the home of the shooting suspect, Ian David Long, in Newbury Park, Calif.
The same script was followed to the letter when the publisher covered the Paris, Brussels and Manchester terror attack where only photos of victims and terrified parents and friends huddle together for support is all that would be splashed for the world to see.
New York Times like countless other foreign publishers seem to be hooked on African ‘gory porn’ which they cant wait to go on another mindless orgy.
These double standards are not only morally wrong but also goes against the code of ethics of journalism according to Victor Bwire, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Programmes Manager at the Media Council of Kenya.
“Professional ethics for journalists whether you are western, local, Kenyan or American is the same, the standards are the same so the New York Times photo remember they have apologized so that’s an admission that they made a mistake and it is true that it goes against the ethics of journalism, there is a principle on the use of photos. We have a code of ethics which require when you are using photos you must be a sensitive one to the families of the victims, remember that person who was killed is somebody’s father, mother or sister, you must be alive also to the general mood of the country, “says Bwire.
Gladys Wangare, a communication specialist and journalist echoes Bwire’s sentiments.
“In US whenever there are shootouts or terror attack do you see the dead people, dead kids no, they never show you that so why should the same standards not apply here when they are covering events? I feel like its an old school form of journalism where you just want to personalize everything like the way we taught back in campus ‘if a dog bites a man its not news but when a man bites a dog it is news’ that old school thinking way of journalism, you need to also think of the people you are reporting about, your country and do it responsibly,” says Ms. Wangare.
Mr Bwire says media will always be free to cover terror attacks and insecurity stories and they are within their rights to cover it in the best way they see fit but that should not excuse them from being aloof.
“But again Media would not have run away from covering it, that event happened and while we commend people and the several media houses in the approach they took you but you cannot fault them if they thought that is the best angle they wanted to take, the only thing we request is editors need to be sensitive and give messages that give hope,” he said.