“WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES”: This was the disclaimer to a now-viral photo published by the New York Times of a Ukrainian family of four lying dead on the street in Irpin, near Kyiv, following a Russian attack on fleeing civilians.
Photojournalist Lynsey Addario tweeted Sunday morning, “Today I witnessed Russian troops deliberately targeting civilians fleeing for their lives from the village of Irpin. At least three members of a family of four were killed in front of me.”
It’s a heartbreaking sight, one that is already burned into the minds of the nearly 29,000 Twitter users who “liked” the tweet and now, millions of New York Times readers, who have seen it on the paper’s front page.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES: Today I witnessed Russian troops deliberately targeting civilians fleeing for their lives from the village of Irpin. At least three members of a family of four were killed in front of me. @nytimes https://t.co/lR0a5FRpXX
— lynsey addario (@lynseyaddario) March 6, 2022
The decision to run such a disturbing photo has once again sparked criticism and debate over the use of such images and videos when covering a war. While some see it as insensitive and exploitative, others note the importance of showing a “moment of horror” in wars that are often seen as nightly entertainment by desensitized viewers in faraway lands.
Take, for example, the iconic image of little Phan Thi Kim Phúc, doused in napalm, running naked and screaming down a South Vietnamese road.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, as Traci Tong aptly noted for The World, “exposed the horrors of the Vietnam War to the world.”
It is not an overstatement to say, it was images like these that fueled the public’s anti-Viet Nam war sentiment and eventually led to changes in governmental policies and strategies.
And this is how the fallen Irpin family is certain to go down in history. It’s that kind of image.
Showing images of dead bodies is extremely rare in mainstream media.
— Brett Mcleod (@Brett_McLeod) March 6, 2022
In a three-tweet thread, New York Times diplomatic correspondent Edward Wong described the scene captured by Addario as “pure horror.”
“Russian soldiers are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians trying to flee,” Wong tweeted. “A mother & 2 children were killed and father wounded by a mortar shell as hundreds of civilians sought safety.”
Pure horror: Russian soldiers are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians trying to flee. A mother & 2 children were killed and father wounded by a mortar shell as hundreds of civilians sought safety. @nytimes photographer Lynsey Addario witnessed it. https://t.co/aDdkZt321B pic.twitter.com/Byp3VSd2n6
— Edward Wong (@ewong) March 6, 2022
To the still photo, Wong attached an even more graphic video which “appears to show the mortar shell exploding among the Ukrainian civilians.” Wong notes that “[New York Times] security employees raced out first to give aid.”
He defended the NYT’s editors’ decision to use the photo: “[New York Times] editors have made an important decision to put the photo by [Lynsey Addario] on the homepage,” he tweeted. “Again, Russian forces fired mortar shells at hundreds of Ukrainian civilians as they fled. A mother and her two children were killed here. This is happening across Ukraine.”
3. @nytimes editors have made an important decision to put the photo by @lynseyaddario on the home page. Again, Russian forces fired mortar shells at hundreds of Ukrainian civilians as they fled. A mother and her two children were killed here. This is happening across Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/le8rRmw3NH
— Edward Wong (@ewong) March 6, 2022
So far, it seems the majority of users on social media agree: It is important to see the reality of war, not for its propaganda value, but to remind us all why our global leaders must do all that they can to avoid them in the future.
Brave reporting by photojournalist @lynseyaddario. These images are heartbreaking and graphic but show the cruel toll of war. We must not turn away. We must do our part to help the people of #Ukraine️. https://t.co/8WfOJwWKW9
— Joann Donnellan (@JoannDonnellan) March 7, 2022
Here is just one example in case you are trying to ignore reality. https://t.co/45Riaw0QEC
— Monday (@KKKrookedGQP) March 7, 2022
Thank you to @NYtimes for showing the real violence of war. There's a tendency to sanitize violence in the Press by not showing bodies or blood–but that lets us ignore the real effects of violence.
— Scott Carney (@sgcarney) March 6, 2022
This unimaginable horror is happening right now. A family wiped out as they try to flee. Putin and his ghoulish troops must be stopped now @POTUS @BorisJohnson @NATO @jensstoltenberg This is not war it's genocide. We will be judged on actions not words, #UkraineRussia https://t.co/X0JM89lhyi
— Tim Hewage 🇬🇧 🇸🇯 🇱🇰 🌍 (@TimHewage) March 6, 2022
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