Ethical Reporting of Death Cases in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

When reporting the conflict between Israel and Palestine some media outlets have failed to take into account the feelings of the families of conflict fatalities.

This is manifested in a habit of publishing pictures of bodies and/or announcing their names before their families are informed. There have been occasions where the relatives have been asked to identify the bodies of their children on air.

Another example of bad practice has been the intrusion of the privacy of victims’ families in times of grieving. Some correspondents of satellite and radio stations – especially the politicized channels that aim at igniting an uprising – seek to convince the families to suppress their feelings and hide their grief.

There have been occasions where the relatives have been asked to identify the bodies of their children on air.

They might even push them to fake happiness and show signs of joy, like ululations for a “martyr”, as well as to express readiness for more sacrifices.

These practices are inhumane, immoral and unprofessional by any means – not to mention the certainly negative and possibly long-lasting effects to the relatives’ psychological health.

The scene of funeral marches transmitted by the media has been equally repellent and unprofessional. The media is not responsible for the organization of a funeral march or the nature of the event. Yet details like taking the body out of mortuary refrigerator, revealing the body parts, focusing on the wounds, how the body is tossed on an open stretcher rather than a closed coffin and how people rush hysterically to bury the victim should not be published.

The PJS code of conduct stipulates under the Article on commitments towards the public that names of victims must not be published prior to ensuring that their families were informed, and that pictures of victims’ bodies must not be posted in a way that hurts the feelings of their families or the public at large, and that children must be protected from being exposed to media materials that adversely affects theirs psychological development. It offers a good minimum level against unnecessarily grotesque imagery.

The PJS code of conduct stipulates that names of victims must not be published prior to ensuring that their families were informed.

Such an image is often transmitted abroad in good will. While it may get compassion in eastern communities that are conservative, religious, or traditional, it has an adverse impact in western societies. The biggest international news agencies generally regulate against publishing photos of dead bodies at all, and thus will not buy or share the photos taken from the fatalities of Israeli-Palestinian conflict either.

 

Reflection:

What would be achieved by publishing violent pictures?
Who or what does it serve?
What other tactics of reporting such events could you come up with?

Keep Reading:

Protection of sources; How can one report terrorist attacks in an ethical manner?
Go back to the beginning of this section.