Picture Panic


Shakir Mir

Earlier this week social media exploded with outrage over pictures of mangled bodies of three young men lying near an orchard in Pattan. The amateur pictures, believed to be of the suspected militants, revealed graphic details of torture. The nails of one body had been plucked out while the other had its head knocked loose, probably due to a heavy blow.

The visuals went viral on WhatsApp and Facebook reaching over lakhs of people across the state. Though the purpose of mobilizing public opinion against such killing is understandable but the development has touched a tenuous aspect of journalism ethics.

Last month, a local English daily uploaded pictures of a protester whose face was badly cut open during a demonstration in Lal Chowk. Later, due to pressure by many commentators, it withdrew the picture and pasted a disclaimer.

Of late, there has been a frequent rise in circulation of graphic imagery both in electronic as well as print media. Such images and video footages are nowadays arbitrarily circulated over social media without the uploaders bothering about the worrying implications it poses on the psychological upkeep of minors who have access to modern gadgetry.

Psychiatrists across the spectrum warn about the downside of children getting exposed to such graphic pictures. They say that a minor’s mind is so delicate and susceptible that it can relate to the occurrences in pictures and movies which can subsequently lead to instances of extreme fear and trauma.

No school of thought in the field of journalism has ever endorsed publication and dissemination of imagery filled with blood and gore. Yet, the circulation of such material in this part of the world has been unrestrained. Now this is not to say that authorities must arrest the circulation and detain the users but this should be understood as a responsibility on part of media to check and censor material not meant for the tender minds.


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