From an accident scene, ‘eyewitnesses’ compete to take pictures of victims irrespective of extent their bodies are maimed; an ignoble culture slowly creeping in.
Without a second thought, they quickly push publish buttons on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Of course to break the news, thanks to citizen journalism, internet connectivity and access to smart phones.
In seconds, their followers are already shearing the images, and in couple of minutes, the pictures are trending.
Wear victim’s shoe before publishing their pictures online
But wait a minute, if the pictures they just shared unknowingly were those of their close relations, would they wish to recall them. Yes they would immediately hit the delete button. Damage would though have been done.
Well, let us deconstruct the ‘Damage’ narrative, often deemed gray.
From mainstream media’s ethical perspective, the media shall not publish or broadcast ‘blood’ – open injuries of victims, equally shall not publish bodies of dead persons irrespective of them belonging to the ‘bad guy’ or the ‘good guy’. This is at least in accordance to Kenya’s media ethical code.
Photographers and editors however are expected to protect victims by editing their pictures to show part of their bodies that do not intrude into their privacy and still be able to convey intended story narration.
Well, those are the rules. For the scribes, they may cease to be rules as long as they are not serving the ‘Common Good’.
In a recent photographers workshop, a seasoned photojournalist and an editor Jacob Otieno shared handout pictures of group of women who went nude in 1992 protesting arrests of their sons during an uprising and push for Kenya’s multiparty rule.
The Standard Newspaper published the pictures – from an African context and norms, however, setting an eye on naked adult female is an outright taboo and an abomination.
Alongside ‘bloody’ pictures published of activists among them Rev. Timothy Njoya in the front pages later in the decade, Mr. Otieno said continuous publishing of picture of ‘bad taste’ eventually compelled former Kenya’s President Daniel Arap Moi’s operatives to yield to calls for democracy and multiparty rule.
In 2013, Daily Nation newspaper, a respected regional publication splashed terrified face of a blood-stained victim, straggling to catch a breath from the infamous Westgate Mall terror attack in Nairobi in what was discussed as a decision to whip the government and hammer a ‘shocker’ proposition to civilians.
Series of Al Shabaab attacks that seamed to have gone out of hand leaving citizens at mercies of the insurgents are believed to have justified the editorial decision.
The woman whose image was used later died. Daily Nation’s picture choice however sparked outrage from across all quarters, contrary to top editorial organ’s ‘shocker’ approach to spark an invasive end to terror attacks.
Unlike The Standard’s decision in 1992 to publish pictures of naked female protesters, Daily Nations decision that borrows from the similar journalism hypothesis practice that calls for sloping* the rules to serve the ‘Common Good’, however, slumped.
Social Media a minimally regulated platform is no much different from the mainstream media’s code – so should you find yourself in similar contexts, would you publish that image?