Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

In to publish, violation of privacy, lack

In this essay, I will be discussing the ethical
principles in relation to photojournalism by focusing on the question ‘when is
it unethical and inappropriate to use a photograph?’. Just like journalists, photojournalists
are expected to follow certain ethical guidelines when they are taking a photograph
that will be published. Photojournalists may have their own code of ethics set
out by the publication they are working for. The publication then makes a
decision on what they are able to tolerate. An example of this is in America,
where they have ‘The National Press Photographers Association’, which is used
to promote high standards of ethical guidelines in the world of visual
journalism. In the UK there is the Editors code of practice called ‘ipso’ which
stands for “independent press standards organisation” which sets out the rules that
magazines and newspapers have agreed to follow. These regulations argued will
be supported by case studies followed by reasons why they are unethical and
inappropriate. There are many examples as to when it is unethical and
inappropriate to use a photograph such as fearing that an image is perhaps too
graphic to publish, violation of privacy, lack of accuracy or a sense of discrimination.

 

Some people consider that it is both unethical as well as
inappropriate to use a photograph which appears to depict a dead person in the
media as it could can be upsetting to the audience. As well as this, it can be
seen as disrespectful to family members and friends mourning the loss of a
loved one. Also a photograph would not be needed to convey an image of the
deceased of the front page of a daily newspaper if there is an article on it. According
to ipso Editor’s Code of Practice “Editors will be expected to justify
intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent” and that “approaches
must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively” (independent
press standards organisation, 2017).

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Another reason linking closely to this, is following a
staged picture from the bombings of Brussels, which causes outrage amongst the
public. Photojournalist, Khaled Al Sabbah, was spotted “on video posing a girl in
mourning after the Brussels terror attacks” (Jamieson, 2016). Not only has this
destroyed the public’s trust in the media but it is also inappropriate as it is
an act of disrespect to the families and friends of those who have died in the
attack. This also leads to questions such as can we, the audience, trust what
the media tells us and how often are photographs used in the public eye staged.

Within the photograph that was taken, the girl is depicted to be praying which
is also inappropriate as praying symbolizes religion which is something
personal and viewed by others as their safe space where they are able to
connect with God.

 

Furthermore,
due to the rise in “new technologies” (Hadland, Lambert and Campbell, 2016) photojournalists
are able to use “new methods of visual storytelling” (Hadland, Lambert and
Campbell, 2016). This will play a massive role in influencing the audience’s
views and opinions by telling a whole new story through the use of visuals. This
leads to new risks for example, the ability to distort and manipulate images. This
subverts the ethical codes that Journalists have should aim to follow, as a
lack of accuracy within an image is deemed to be unethical as it is covering up
the truth. This can be supported by the ipso code of practice, as it reads “The
press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information or images” (independent press standards organisation, 2017).

This touches upon when photographs are published that have been altered in some
way to be perceived in a different light, to perhaps provide an alternative
meaning.

 

Moreover, a
major factor in considering when a photograph used in the media is unethical
and inappropriate is if there is any discrimination taking place. An example of
this was quite recent as the image of actress, Lupita Nyong’o, appeared to be
altered on the front page of Grazia magazine. The photographer had altered the
photograph of her by airbrushing her skin and altering her hairstyle. This shows
a lack of sensitivity as the photographer was ignorant to alter her image to
conform to the stereotype of women of colour having short hair. As a result of
this “The photographer whose airbrushed image of Lupita Nyong’o prompted a
storm of controversy” (Singh, 2017) which caused Lupita to be “disappointed” in
the photographer’s representation of her. This raised issues within the beauty
industry as the photographer’s representation of diversity within the beauty
industry was tarnished as he manipulated the image to cater to a more “Eurocentric”
notion of the ideal beautiful hair that is presented in the media. Although it
can be argued that the photograph had already been manipulated even before the
image had been taken. Whitehead states in his article how “posing a subject in
a certain way, having a person act in an illustrative manner, or re-enacting a
scene are all forms of manipulation” (Whitehead, 2015). This supports the idea
that the photographer began his manipulation process even before the image had
even been taken.

 

In addition
to this, it is seen as inappropriate and unethical for a photograph to be used
which illustrate a graphic and disturbing image. An example of this is the war
in Iraq, photographer, Kenneth Jarecke, “photographed an Iraqi man burned alive”
(Deghett, 2014). This photograph is both inappropriate and unethical as it is a
very chilling and graphic image as the burnt man is merely just a skeleton with
as the fire had destroyed his skin and facial features. The image was taken in
order for the public to see what war is really like, which is not how they
portray them in the films. However, it is debatable whether the picture of the
man burnt alive needed to be published on the internet for the public to see,
due to the disturbing nature of the image. In contrast to this, the image that
was published in Vietnam war of the “Napalm girl”, which was also graphic, was
published for the greater good. The editors at the ‘The Times’ newspaper did not censor the image as they felt as
though it was in the public interest to publish as the horrific picture of
conflict may help to depict the horrendous struggles and danger they are in.

 

Subsequently, there is one exception to all of the following
reasons that have been stated is that if they can be demonstrated that it is
within the public interest to be published. In order to provide the reason of
public interest the editor would need to be able to demonstrate that they are a
reliable publication, as well as providing a reason as to why it is of public
interest. For example, revealing the identities of criminals who police are yet
to arrest so that it is already in the publics domain so that they are a made
aware. A case in the news where this was made evident was the powerful image of
a young boy that had survived the Syrian war that spread to Aleppo. This was in
the public interest as it holds a significant influence in improving the lives
and living conditions to those suffering in Aleppo. Without this photograph
there isn’t the slightest pressure on those who are able to help, actually make
a difference to those people’s lives. This shows that photojournalism is able
to hold so much power in one single photograph, and even that is enough to
bring about change. This is reinforced by Palmer’s view that “photojournalism
evokes powerful emotional reactions in audiences and motivated real political
change” (Palmer, 2017).

 

To conclude, there are many times that it is considered
unethical and inappropriate to use a photograph in the media for example, the
reasons I have previously explained. As a result of analysing all of the
following reasons, the only time at which it is considered to be acceptable using
an unethical and inappropriate photograph is when it is of public interest. This
is may be to protect the public’s health and safety or raising awareness of a
notion. It is important that in society today we have ethical standards for
photojournalism to make sure that the public are able to put their trust into
journalists through the set of rules they stand by today. Whilst there has not
been any massive uproar with unethical and inappropriate photos used in the
media very recently the three main ones that I have previously discussed are:
the image taken of Lupita Nyong’o that was manipulated, the powerful image of
the young boy barely surviving after coming out of the Syrian war in Aleppo,
and finally what can be considered as an iconic photo is the “Napalm girl”
during the Vietnam war, which had posed numerous tough ethical questions.

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