What is and is not appropriate for public consumption in terms of news media reporting?
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite television network, recently drew a line by deciding not to broadcast footage of a killing spree that claimed the lives of at least three French soldiers, three Jewish children, and a rabbi. The footage was recorded from the point of view of the alleged killer, Mohammed Merah, and mailed to Al-Jazeera’s Paris office from an undisclosed source. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, other French officials and family members of the victims had asked that it not be broadcast.
Al-Jazeera said it had received many requests from media to look at the video, but that it would deny all of them in accordance with its Code of Ethics. Other media outlets, such as CNN or the BBC, might not have kept the footage private and have previously proceeded to broadcast alarmingly violent content.
What factors should be taken into consideration when determining what is and is not appropriate for public exposure? Should graphic images be censored more carefully than raw information and why? Can something be so disturbing that it should ethically be kept out of the public eye?
Kelly McBride, senior faculty for ethics, at the Poynter Institute
Mohammed el-Nawawy, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Knight School of Communication, Queens University of Charlotte; El-Nawawy is co-author with Adel Iskandar of "Al-Jazeera: The Story of the Network That is Rattling Governments and Redefining Modern Journalism."
Richard Griffiths, vice president and senior editorial director, CNN