Thursday, 20 October 2011

The death of Gaddafi in pictures - do we really need to see?


This morning, history was made when Libya's Col Muammar Gaddafi was killed. 

News quickly spread around Libya, and before too long, around the world.  This is the end of an era for the Libyans, and hopefully the beginning of a new one. 

But as the news spread, so did the graphic images and video footage, first of a still alive Gaddafi being paraded around the streets and then of his bloody corpse.

This is more than just news – it’s history.  Our children will learn about it in years to come.

However, I can’t help feeling uncomfortable at the level of graphic imagery that has been shown in conjunction with the broadcasting of this news story.  If you opened any news website this afternoon, you were confronted with the image of Gaddafi’s corpse without any prior warning.  The 6:00 BBC news headline started with “shocking images have been shown around the world,” as the “shocking images” scrolled across the screen.  And tomorrow’s front pages carry many of the same images. 

I personally think we should all take an interest in the news, I am constantly shocked at people who have no idea of what is going on around them.  However I fail to see why news stories such as this one need to come with graphic images attached.

The Libyan people needed confirmation that Gaddafi was dead.  Only if you have lived in Libya can you surely know just what it was like living under his regime and the impact his death may have on your life and that of your family.  But I don’t see why we need to see proof that he is dead, and if the media outlets absolutely feel they must publish these images, why they can’t do so more discretely either on the inside pages or after the watershed.

Our televisions have an off switch.  Every one of us has the option to not watch the broadcast news.  However it is much harder to avoid walking past newspaper stands or newspapers in supermarkets.  Is it appropriate that young children be subjected to these pictures without warning? 

The watershed exists in order to shield children from acts of sex or violence.  Is the broadcasting of a bloodied dead body, whoever he might have been, any less an act of violence purely because it’s a real life event and not a portrayal?

We are quick to condemn other countries for parading our own soldiers on their news channels, and while there is no comparison between Gaddafi and one of our own, and his death was inevitable, sensationalizing it by adding video footage and graphic pictures is no less distasteful.

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