How barbaric

25 July 2003 – Why were the pictures of two bloodstained, battered faces of two corpses run on the front pages of so many UK national papers? Do the editors think that the public doesn’t believe that Uday and Qusay Hussein are dead (as if they would recognise them anyway)?

Everyone got up in arms about an Arabic TV station running pictures of dead British soldiers, so what message are we supposed to draw from these new brutish images splattered across the newsstands of the land?

The obvious one is that because they were criminal (and foreign) tyrants the same rules of decency do not apply. Another is that the editors are either willing or unwitting servants to the whims of the US warlords Rumsfeld and Bush. It remains to be seen what difference publication of the pictures in Iraq will make to public reactions to the occupying forces. One this is for sure, arms-dealer Rumsfeld will not be there to bear the brunt.

But on the home front, what are children to make of these horrific images? The precise point of the front page of a newspaper is to market the product. Children, and other faint-hearted passers-by, could not avoid the sight this morning. Staring them in the face, above the fold, from almost every front page were sickening photographs offered without warning or explanation.

Anyone asked by a child to explain or justify these pictures could quickly find themselves confronted with some pretty difficult questions…

There is a time and a place to present such frightening images – and that is not on the front page. Like the distasteful ‘crotch’ shots so beloved of the Sport, the use of these images is as a marketing tool leaves more than taste to be desired. It brings into question the editorial judgement of those who approved the layout.

No-one is denying the right of an editor to use the pictures that Rumsfeld was so ‘glad’ to supply. It is their flagrant display on the front pages that needs to be challenged.

Next time the leader columns wax high and mighty about the excesses of Hollywood or the TV, they would do well to consider what lasting impact their own crass judgement may have had on the young and the impressionable.

Mike Jempson
Director, The PressWise Trust

(Bulletin No 91)

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