The Daily Beast Debates MR Decision to Publish Child Victim Photos

The American news reporting site The Daily Beast has published a feature debating Migrant Report’s decision to publish the harrowing photos of five children who drowned off the Libyan west coast when a boat with more than 400 people capsized.

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The online publication on Tuesday asked whether this was the first step towards “a fundamental rethink of the comfortable assumptions of the comfortable people in the West”.

Around 430 people are believed to have been onboard. Only 180 survived; and just 130 cadavers were found.

In his piece ‘You Might As Well Ignore Photos of Dead Refugee Babies on Africa’s Shores’ The Daily Beast News Editor Christopher Dickey argues that readers’ immediate urge to distance themselves from the images and others like them, needs to stop.

“‘Wasn’t that horrible?’ is always easier to say than the truth, which is ‘This is grotesque and horrifying and it’s only the beginning’,” Mr Dickey writes.

Migrant Report executive editor Mark Micallef told the news outlet that he contemplated publishing the images for 24 hours, before deciding to go ahead.

“In the end, the answer I gave myself is that we respect the dignity of those children more by publishing the photos of their bodies than by not publishing them. If the pictures move a single politician holding an unhelpful position, their death would not have been completely in vain,” Micallef said.

Dickey in turn argues that the only medium- and long-term solution for the migration problem is to build peace in the war zones of Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, —the three countries that account for more than half of the world’s refugees.

He calls on the international community to impose order on the chaos in Libya; deliver freedom and prosperity in West and East Africa; and greater social and economic justice in Latin America.

The bodies of five children recovered off the coast of Zuwara with another 111 cadavers. Only 180 survived from a boat carrying between 430 and 470.

The bodies of five children recovered off the coast of Zuwara with another 111 cadavers. Only 180 survived from a boat carrying between 430 and 470.

Why We Chose to Publish the Pictures

Migrant Report was essentially conceived as a means to deliver ground facts on under-reported migration hot spots by partnering with people living and working in these areas and migrants travelling through them.

The pictures we published on Saturday follow on other stories we’ve done since our launch in June. Throughout that month, for instance, tracked down the bodies recovered by the Libya Red Crescent across the Tripolitania coast over the month bringing much needed attention to this hidden body count, not to mention the valuable work being done by the LRC.

In July, we confirmed a report of the murder of migrants in the desert town of Sabha from where thousands of sub-Saharan Africans enter Libya from the western side of the Libyan desert.

Both these stories had an impact. Many large news outlets, for instance, started paying attention to the work being done by the LRC. Similarly, the photos published on Saturday provoked a substantial debate, particularly in Norway, where the pictures were picked up by the country’s major news outlets.

Europe has lived with the reality of mass irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East for more than 15 years and throughout this time public opinion and by extension politicians were moved into action when faced with the crude implications of Europe’s unsatisfactory response to what is taking place in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Hiding or sanitising that reality does not help. This notwithstanding, the primary ethical consideration should be for the dignity of the individuals concerned. In this case, the decision was even more delicate because the bodies where those of children.

In the end, the answer we gave ourselves is that we respect the dignity of those children more by publishing the photos of their bodies than by not publishing them. If the pictures move a single politician holding an unhelpful position, their death would not have been completely in vain.