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Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Uganda's capital city Kampala, has just been rocked by a deadly twin-terrorist attack, with more than seventy people perishing. For the average person to appreciate the gravity of these attacks, the media need not illustrate it with dead bodies.

And yet the images splashed in the Ugandan media seem to negate this very central tenet of journalism ethics. Indeed, very, very disturbing pictures have been posted on the Internet.

And it is hard to believe there is any good that can come out of placing some of these images on social networking sites, even as a way of spurring beneficial debate.

The carnage was horrific and many Ugandans are in mourning. Posting such images online will surely aggravate the trauma of the victims' relatives or anybody, who can recognise them.

I have made it a habit of complaining about the way the western media is fond of showing dead bodies, when reporting about conflicts in Africa or other developing countries, and yet seem to apply another ethical standard, when covering stories of dead people in their own or fellow industrialised states.

I once entered into a heated argument with a TV producer of NHK of Japan, when I was in Tokyo, after seeing close-ups of dead bodies in a documentary the channel had produced about the Darfur conflict in western Sudan.

And in my MA classes here in the UK, many a times have found me castigating the western press for their penchant for double standards. My favourite example being the way dead bodies were splashed across international channels after the 1998 terrorist attacks in Nairobi because the live images were being received and relayed unedited.

But comparatively, every care was taken to avoid showing people jumping from the twin towers after the September 11 attacks in America, despite the images being in the possession of TV networks, as they happened.

It is thus quite devastating for me to see Africa's own media being insensitive to its own people, whether covering their lives or deaths.

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