21 November 2023

“This image may be worth a million words...”

The New York Times

Israel and Hamas have been at war since 7th October and, as in previous conflicts, news organisations are making editorial judgements about publishing images of casualties. On 12th October, the Israeli government’s X account posted three photographs of children killed by Hamas; The Daily Telegraph newspaper printed one of those images the following day (p. 3), with the child’s face blurred. The newspaper’s headline paraphrased US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “This image may be worth a million words”.

On its website on 13th November, The New York Times published an op-ed by Lydia Polgreen describing a photo taken by Mahmud Hams showing six dead children at a Gaza morgue, though her editor decided against reproducing the image in full. Instead, a cropped version was used, showing only the lower halves of the children’s faces.

The NYT’s front page on 20th November featured a photograph showing the shrouded body of eight-month-old Misk Joudeh, her face and arm visible as her remaining family members gathered around in mourning. She had been killed, alongside her parents, by an Israeli airstrike last month. (The image, taken by Samar Abu Elouf, was reprinted on the front page of the paper’s international edition yesterday.)

As Polgreen wrote in her online op-ed: “It is a rare thing for mainstream news organizations to publish graphic images of dead or wounded children. Rightly so. There is nothing quite so devastating as the image of a child whose life has been snuffed out by senseless violence.” This was also true in 2015, when The Independent newspaper published a photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, on its front page.