Monday, 11 May 2015

Should you print it?

This exercise asks us to contemplate what we would have done as a newspaper editor if faced with the first image in this document. In support it provides a paper my Michael Ignatieff which sets out some criteria (they are only “some” – it seems to me these things are fairly personal and quite possibly culturally dependant) for deciding on whether or not to publish graphic images of violence. In summary the criteria are:
  • Is the subject of sufficient social or historic significance to justify the shock?
  • Is the objectionable detail necessary to properly understand the event?
  • Did the subject consent?
  • Is the image expressive of humanity?
Ignatieff suggests that fulfilling any one of these criteria may be sufficient. If we accept these criteria (I’m not sure they are sufficient) then in my opinion the El Pais image meets the first criteria, fails the middle two, and probably meets the final one and should be published. I’m not sure I agree with the squeamishness displayed by the British media.
I do however feel there is a criteria missing which is the impact on the victims next of kin – which includes aspects of anonymity. In this case the severed limb is essentially anonymous. However Ignatieff also discusses the example of a picture of the beheading of an Australian soldier by a Japanese officer during WWII. In this case I disagree with publication – Ignatieff argues that it underlines the sheer horror of WWII in the far East. Set against that most people can imagine a beheading – to many the very idea carries a sense of revulsion -  and I’m not sure what was served by a public display of the death of someone's clearly identifiable son.
In a nutshell the argument is always – does the benefit of publication outweigh the distress caused by publication – and ultimately – while it is possible to identify factors to be considered the decision will always be personal and often political.

No comments:

Post a Comment