The New York Times has been excoriated online for its decision to publish highly-graphic images of victims of the Nairobi terrorist attack, with many accusing ‘the paper of record’ of hypocrisy, double standards and even racism.
The NYT’s article covering the attack, penned by the organization’s East Africa Bureau Chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, contains images of bullet-riddled bodies slumped over in a restaurant which was targeted during a lengthy siege that was still ongoing at time of publication. At least 21 people were killed, including an American and a British citizen.
We have heard from some readers upset with our publishing a photo showing victims after a brutal attack in Nairobi. We understand how painful this coverage can be, and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images in these situations. https://t.co/Qjm0qBMaF3pic.twitter.com/1sqgTnnVKW
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 15, 2019
Shortly after publication the hashtags #SomeoneTellNYTimes and #DeportKimiko began trending on Twitter, as Kenyans expressed their outrage at what they deemed was sensationalist coverage at the expense of positive stories surrounding the attack, such as ordinary Kenyans risking their lives to evacuate survivors and massive blood drives to help treat shooting victims.
Many called for Freytas-Tamura to be fired or even deported altogether.
#SomeoneTellNYtimes we do not need your sensationalized photos to “get the picture”. We have family, friends, fellow Kenyans who have lived the nightmare of terrorism. Some are gone forever. You are a disgrace. Disrespectful.
— Kambua (@Kambua) January 16, 2019
As an American in Nairobi, I’ve never seen pictures of bodies in the news after our numerous US school shootings. I feel just as discraced by your response as I do by your original decision to publish photos of bodies from the #RiversideAttack
— Matthew Grollnek (@MatthewGrollnek) January 16, 2019
Freytas-Tamura initially directed her critics to the New York Times’ photo desk saying she had no influence over the photos selected for inclusion in the piece, before deleting the thread and republishing the NYT’s statement on the matter.
The offending photos, taken by the AP’s Khalil Senosi, are still included in the NYT’s coverage as of Thursday morning, and there is still no graphic content warning.
Senosi’s photo was distributed by the Associated Press (AP) and published by various outlets including the UK’s MailOnline, Daily Mirror and the Sun, in addition Germany’sBild, but the New York Times bore the brunt of Kenyan ire and international outrage.
Very disturbing images published by @GettyImages, accredited to @kabirdhanji, from the Riverside/Dusit incident. Others posted by @nytimes attributed to Khalil Senosi (for @AP) in an article by @kimidefreytas. Absolutely distasteful, disgusting and deplorable. An utter disgrace.
— Fadhili Kanini (@FQanini) January 15, 2019
“if the refusal to publish images of dead American service members is a sign of respect, then the willingness to publish photographs of other people’s dead bodies can be read as a sign of disrespect” – @nytimes
It is intentional. https://t.co/5mNtdiCAci
— Mūrūthi (@Ngartia) January 16, 2019
It is not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, that such graphic images were published in coverage of terrorist atrocities, though it has ignited discussion about the differences in coverage between Western and African victims and survivors.
The tragedy in #Nairobi today does not require @nytimes sensationalized photos of bloody bullet-filled bodies slumped over laptops to be understood as horrific. We don’t show dead bloody bodies of American school children. Esp not white ones, right? #SomeoneTellNYtimes
— Kristin Gilliss Moyer (@kristingilliss) January 15, 2019
Presumably we will be seeing photos of children in the next mass shootout in the US so we can “get a real sense of the situation” right?
— Mazza (@MarionneRyan) January 15, 2019
The Times did, however, publish photos of victims and survivors of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting in which 59 people died and 851 people were injured.
Many pointed to Western media coverage of Africa in general, with some highlighting that Nairobi’s terrorist threat level is no worse than London or Paris, while others decried the lack of positive or empowering coverage of Kenya.
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