Image Of Dead Syrian Child Divided Britain's Press In Their Handling Of Graphic Picture

How The Image Of A Dead Syrian Child Divided Britain's Press

The image of a dead Syrian three-year-old boy, who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean, was said to bring the tragedy of thousands dying seeking a better life into sharp focus.

But it divided Britain's press, with papers taking different approaches in trying to strike a balance between not sanitising the child's death and not shocking people by showing the unedited, graphic images.

The Independent splashed the picture at the top of its website, where anyone who logged on to the site would see it without warning, and won praise for doing so.

At a time when Britain has taken barely 200 refugees from Syria, the Indy ran the picture beneath the headline: "If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?"

The paper wrote it had "taken the decision to publish these images because, among the often glib words about the 'ongoing migrant crisis', it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees".

Warning: video contains graphic footage

During a debate on the image on LBC on Wednesday evening, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the paper should be "applauded" for using the image so prominently, adding: "They're [The Independent] not just within their rights... they should be applauded.

Host Iain Dale said it was "not an easy thing to look at" but said he felt publishing it was necessary because "it needs to be brought home to use what's happening".

Roger Alton, the former editor of The Observer, called it a "great piece of journalism".

“It's a very powerful thing... a million victims is a statistic, one dead child is a tragedy," he told the programme.

But LBC itself did not follow the Independent's example, publishing a pixelated version of the image on the front of its website.

The Guardian and Mail Online both published a different image of the same boy in the arms of a Turkish Gendarme, in which the child's face obscured by the man.

Mail Online then ran a pixelated version of the image within its story of the boy's body on the beach while The Guardian ran it unedited, beneath a warning it was graphic.

The Huffington Post UK also used the image of the Gendarme carrying the child on the beach.

On Twitter, journalists Ian Dunt and Giles Dilnot gave opposing views of whether using the image was necessary.

It remains to be seen how tomorrow's front pages, which will be circulated later tonight, will treat the image.

During the LBC show, Dale compared it to the famous 1972 photo of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running down a road having just suffered a napalm attack.

Alton compared the image to that of a charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier, which was published inside newspapers during the 1991 Gulf War.

"Whether it'll make a difference, that's another matter," he added.

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