Ethics of Death in Media

Although death is a component of life, there is still major debate on the ethics of showing the dead or dying within media. Critics of showing death often state that respect for the grieving and for the dead are reasons to not show death. Additionally, many photos of the dead that are published are not white, prompting other critics to ask if these photos would be published if they were white. Lastly, some persons are also worried about the effect seeing death will have on children or easily impressionable people. Advocates for publishing death argue that photos and videos humanize atrocities, natural disasters, and epidemics. Posting death makes events “real” for the readers and helps readers to understand the pain caused by the loss of a loved one or the cruelty in which the deceased was killed. Additionally, photos of dead often influence opinions which later influence policy to stop or continue actions, such as drone attacks or withholding aid.

In my own opinion, I believe that we should show death, regardless of the status of a person who has died. Although it would be difficult to see my own family posted on media, I believe that censorship of these images would hinder efforts to stop whatever atrocity happened. Additionally, humans have a fascination with violence and death and I believe that regardless of whatever journalists don’t post online, people will still find a way to see these images if they want.

Specifically in Iraq, I had seen an image of a solider holding a small child, that I later found out had died from a car bomb. I believe the image both humanized the situation and swayed reader’s opinions on the terrorist group that planted the bomb. The article, written by photographer Michael Yon can be found here. If you are interested in seeing the photo, please feel free to look up Michael Yon’s “Little Girl” or use the link to see the image.

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