As someone who is currently being trained in the fields of English and journalism, a number of dilemmas have begun to arise within me.
It all began after I saw a number of “raw” images and footage from inside the Westgate Mall attack that was littered across social networking sites and news channels. Pictures depicting people who had been shot, bloodied up and killed began to disturb me deeply within. I started to question whether it is ethically correct for journalists and photographers to actually post such images of people at their worst and moreover people who have just been terribly traumatised. These photographs are scarring and damaging in many respects
On news networks I noticed journalists were hounding hostages and witnesses who had just been rescued or escaped a terrorist attack - that has, in-turn had a great effect on the whole African continent – South Africa included. This too me does not seem morally correct either.
But then again, to play the ‘devil’s advocate’ , how are journalists supposed to actual cover certain ‘breaking news’ events without interviewing newly released hostages or witnesses? How are journalists supposed to honestly portray the story to the world without showing these terrible yet revealing images despite their disturbing connotations?
During the run up to the 12th Anniversary of September 11th, I decided to take a look at how international news networks portrayed the attack from that day on YouTube
Many of the eerily unsettling images and interviews during the coverage on that day in 2001 moved me to tears so many years later. Without those images and those touching interviews – one in which a woman who had been in the towers cried on the shoulder of the reporter interviewing her – the international community would not have had a proper idea of the full effects it would have globally. These images inspired men and women from across the globe to donate blood, money, medical supplies and even fly-over forensic teams to help deal with the aftermath.
These images brought about a sense of pain and relief to those who had been exposed in this way and to the world.
The image of a man jumping from one of the top floors of the Twin-Towers became an iconic image of September 11th. But too his family and friends, is this image not the perfect example of betrayal of trust and ethics?
With this type of information, which too those who have been exposed is extremely sensitive, when should a line be drawn?
When one looks at the massacre of Rwanda in 1994 and the current struggles across Sudan, one questions how much of an impact this “raw” footage and images that depict death and violence have had in the world?
In Rwanda there was hardly an international intervention despite the brutal violence and slaughter being inflicting on scores innocent men women and children.
As stated in the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina tells the main journalist Jack that he is glad that he has shot this footage because it’s the “only chance that people might intervene.”
In response to this Jack asks, “If no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?”
This epitomises the whole dilemma perfectly. If these images will not make a profound difference to a trying situation, should they still be shown and exposed to not only the public but to the global community?
This bridge is an extremely complex and difficult one to cross. As a future journalist, I feel that it is important for us not to sensationalize these images and not become caught up in the morbid curiosity aspect.
We must respect this form of the media and treat it with real caution and care, because we do not know who and what it may affect in the present and the future.
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