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Wrong: Haitians in rubbles from BBC gallery

January 13, 2010 13 comments

One picture is worth 1,000 words. The cliché says. However, BBC’s selection of pictures about Haiti earthquake seem quite inappropriate.     

BBC news site picture of Haiti earthquake

 

This picture has strong visual impact, isn’t it?  

Click on it or go to BBC website to see it in enlarged size. Look at it very carefully. Now tell me how you feel.  

Don’t you think that BBC is actually ‘playing’ with people’s miserable life, even if just slightly?  

The women with a dust face got her body below chest stuck in ruins, together with another two who were almost unidentifiable, one of whom had his/her head and body in red blood.  

Is it appropriate that BBC published this photo?  

Pictures in other media

BBC didn’t take this photo. It was from AFP.  

In fact, none of the 17 photos in its gallery was credited to BBC. Most of them were from AFP, several from AP and Getty Image, and one from the Red Cross.  

This explains why you can see the same images in other media such as The Times or The Telegraph.  

The Times Haiti story

 

The Telegraph Haiti Story

 

However, neither Times nor Telegraph selected that photo that BBC used. If you go through all the photos, you’ll see they are more reserved than BBC in using photos that feature seriously injured people.  

Who makes the decision?

The answer to this question is simple. It’s the editor on duty who decides which photos get published.  

However, the question might actually not so simple as it looks. Behind the simple ‘go’ or ‘down’ decision is the style, or principle of each media institution.  

BBC saw that picture, so did the Times and the Telegraph, most probably. But they made different choices.  

BBC knew well that some of its photos including the one we talked just now might offend some people, so they put up a warning on the first page saying “This gallery contains pictures some readers might find disturbing”.  

But does that justify its ‘playing with people’s miserable life’?  

I’m not a person who gets easily disturbed, but this picture really makes me feel bad about those Haitians hit by the earthquake, especially how their catastrophic lives were depicted by BBC