25/01/2020 13:14 GMT

'You Erased A Continent' – Anger As Ugandan Climate Activist Cropped From Agency Picture

Vanessa Nakate said "I am not going to be silenced" after being cropped out of a picture which features four white climate campaigners.

Denis Balibouse / Reuters
Climate change activists Ugandan Vanessa Nakate, Swedish Greta Thunberg, German Luisa Neubauer, Swedish Isabelle Axelsson and Swiss activist Loukina Tille in Davos. 

A Ugandan climate activist has accused a news agency of racism and “erasing a continent” after she was cropped out of a picture featuring leading young campaigners. 

Vanessa Nakate, 23, attended a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday alongside several other climate activists, including Greta Thunberg.

But when news agency Associated Press (AP) published a picture from the event, Nakate – the only Black campaigner in attendance was cropped out. 

Nakate joined the school strike movement, launched by Thunberg, in Uganda in 2019 after becoming concerned about rising temperatures in her home country. She has since led a number of national strikes. 

Her removal from the picture was picked up almost immediately, and Nakate quickly raised the issue online, responding with a ten-minute Twitter which explained what it had felt like to be edited out of the picture.

At times breaking down in tears, she says to the camera: ”What really had me the most was just thinking about the people from my country and the people from Africa, and how much I’ve seen people being affected by the climate crisis.

“How I’ve seen people die, people lose their families, people lose their children, people lose their homes, and everything they ever dreamed of and hoped for.

“I saw all these things and [I thought] who is going to be able to speak for these people? Who is going to try and help these people? 

In a later tweet, she wrote: “You didn’t just erase a photo, you erased a continent. But I am stronger than ever.” 

In the hours after the cropped picture was revealed, Nakate was defended by dozens of Twitter users and fellow climate activists who described what had happened as “unacceptable”. 

Thunberg wrote her own message of support, replying to Nakate’s video by saying: “We are all so grateful for what you are doing and we all send love and support!” 

In a statement, AP’s executive editor Sally Buzbee said: “We regret publishing a photo this morning that cropped out Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, the only person of colour in the photo.

“As a news organisation, we care deeply about accurately representing the world that we cover. We train our journalists to be sensitive to issues of inclusion and omission.

“We have spoken internally with our journalists and we will learn from this error in judgment.”