A Kenyan newspaper has found itself in an unenviable position of disagreeing to agree with its readers. The paper insists its decision to publish a grotesque image in its front page, was based on sound reasoning. The justification further cements the belief that there was an abdication of editorial responsibility.
The paper begins by a telling admission:
"...the Star ran a graphic photo of the body of the late Sheikh Makaburi on the front page..."
This does not take into account the extent to which the word graphic' entails. So one might not appreciate the full impact of the gory image used. But I can tell you for free the chosen picture was utterly distasteful.
Then the editor seeks to provide a contextual backup, arguing that:
"...the photo had overriding news value. Its publication was not gratuitous. The public was extremely interested."
What news value? Does it mean the other media outlets in the country missed the 'story' by not capturing that being referred to as, 'overriding news value'? It can similarly be argued that if the public is extremely interested in pornography, acts of copulation should be published copiously by the press.
The paper's editor continues with this spurious trajectory by concluding that past display of the bodies of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, was enough evidence of an acceptable precedence.
I wonder if the paper would have had the guts to publish the image of a captured Samuel Doe, with his genitalia exposed, now that only bad examples are being cited.
Yes, people need to know the truth. But we all know handling the truth and dealing with its full impact, is a different matter. Then comes this comparison:
"...Four terrorists were killed at Westgate but we have never seen their bodies.......With this photo we know for certain that Makaburi is dead."
What if the paper's reporter, correspondent or even stringer was at the scene and viewed the body, would their account be so unbelievable to the point of necessitating the use of a graphic image of a cadaver, for the story to be credible?
Can't there be, at the very least, an attempt to artistically and ethically produce a more appropriate image, which takes into account the various sensitivity levels?
"A photo makes you understand with an immediacy that text can never achieve."
However, if indeed, "..people are being killed on both sides..." isn't it possible that the published picture could inflame angry emotions and cause more tension?
I guess that would mean more gory pictures for the paper to prominently publish!