Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Are We Dead Meat to the Media?

A PIA plane carrying forty-five people crashed yesterday and there were no survivors. Along with reports of the tragedy, we have another set of gory photographs appearing in the leading dailies. Pictures of charred bodies, barely recognizable as human beings after the fire has consumed them. Worse, there are pictures of body parts. Death by fire must be incredibly tortuous and painful. Whenever we hear of accidental death we tend to put ourselves in the place of the victims. This could happen to us, too, because it could happen to anyone, we think. The utter helplessness of the victims is disturbing. And what the victims' families have to undergo during the process of identification preys on the mind. We don’t need photographic reminders of the horror of untimely and accidental death. But this horror is laid bare to the public repeatedly by our print media and television networks. Why?

Can you imagine the impact on little children who see these images on television or in newspapers and magazines? Wont they have nightmares? The images are enough to disturb the peace of the strongest minded. In the interests of gathering fodder for news, and in competing with rivals to be the first with breaking news, is not the media losing sight of basic human decency? Is this sympathy for the victims? Or is this voyeurism and violation of the worst kind? Is nothing sacred or inviolate any longer? Apparently not. We are just dead meat for the media.

The dailies and television networks, which carry these pictures, have no right to divest the accident victims of dignity in death by publishing pictures of charred, broken and mangled bodies. They may be bodies today, but they were loved ones yesterday. I ask you to recall with what ruthless regularity we see pictures of dead bodies of terrorists, criminals or their victims--alas, equal in death--which are blood soaked, mangled, gruesome and horrific.

Death is the ultimate reality in life and there is no true wisdom without accepting this fact. On the one hand, people today seem to be obsessed with the idea of fighting death as the natural end to life. It is as if we want to seek a cure for death. In many cases, the elderly long for death as that natural conclusion to life's labours; a long wished for and well earned sleep. Today's life prolonging therapies offer an extension of life, but they do little enough to alleviate physical and mental suffering. Death is natural, whether it comes suddenly or expectedly. We have to learn to accept death as a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean that we become blasé or brutal about it, either. We must pay the dead the respect due to them.

We cannot permit this violence of the lens to continue. I appeal earnestly to all who think alike to join me and to use their influence where possible. There must be some moral code, some ethical guidelines that our editors and television programmers must follow.

No comments: