The Citizen has apologised for allowing a digitally altered photograph of victims of the Kabul suicide bombing to be published. Eight South Africans died after a female suicide bomber drove her car, packed with explosives, carrying the South Africans to work at Kabul airport.
“The photo should never have been published in that form,” editor Martin Williams said in a statement. “It is always a complicated decision to decide how much gore and graphic violence we allow onto the front page. We recently published a photo of the Marikana massacre, with the bodies of the dead clearly visible. This photo was not nearly as graphic as the Kabul one, which is why the bodies were not blurred.”
The Citizen’s photo, originally photographed by a photographer for Agence France-Presse, had the bodies of two of the victims completely removed using digital technology. The newspaper said a decision was made during the editorial conference the day before to run the picture in question, but to blur the bodies, in the same manner as was done during television broadcasts of the aftermath of the attack.
“Due to the much more graphic nature of the Kabul blast photo, we felt that blurring the bodies was appropriate. Removing them completely is, however, completely inexcusable and we readily admit that this never should have happened,” Williams said.
But, according to the statement, the directive to blur the bodies was not carried out leading to a storm of outrage journalists and journalism organisations on social networking platforms.
The National Press Club was particularly vocal, issuing a statement calling for the Citizen to “explain itself”.
“News photographers are, in essence, journalists who work in pictures. Manipulating photos that portray facts seems totally unethical,” said chairperson, Antoinette Slabbert. “We believe the Citizen, if it did not want to show dead bodies in the photo, should have chosen to use an alternative photo instead. We call on the newspaper to explain this to the media fraternity and its readers.
“Photographers and journalists have to adhere to strict ethical standards when doing their job and we believe they should be allowed to speak up when their rights are affected.”
Williams said the Citizen regretted what had happened, and was taking steps to ensure it never happened again