Why haven’t we seen one common picture for Aylan AL Kurdi?
By: Farah Al Bakhit
Professional Diploma in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies
(Media in Humanitarian Situations)
Dr. Francesca Ruisi
Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), University of Jordan
“We have a far more sophisticated audience today than in the past, one that sees more clearly behind the manipulations and stagecraft of its political leaders.”
– Alissa Quart Comment by CSS-Jordan: Nice way to introduce the reader
It is quite a common idea that media shapes the way people think about politics, it shapes the acts of the policy makers towards a political decision, a revolution or even a normal protest in a small neighborhood. Since the awakening of the Arab Spring in 2011 till this day media played a huge role for both people and their governments, this role affected decisions made regionally and internationally. The first flame of the Arab Spring was the Tunisian revolution were the people protested against corruption, poverty, and political repression, the huge coverage of the media was a tool to be used by the Egyptians to start their own revolution. Egypt was the first to introduce a new tool to gather people for an uprising, and since then, media and social media were both the basic engines to get people out on the streets. The Syrian conflict broke out in 2011 where a lot of people have been killed and millions flew their home and seek asylum in neighboring countries and in Europe. This research paper will look at one of the most shocking news of this crisis, Allan Al Kurdi, the drowned boy who was washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015. It will discuss and analyze how different newspapers displayed the picture of Allan and why did we “the audience” had different framing of the picture and not one picture. It will look at a Turkish newspaper, a Canadian newspaper, a Syrian Newspaper, and a different British Newspapers; each newspaper showed the picture in a different frame and a different catching title, it is quiet important to know why such a picture of a dead child can have different ways of introducing it to the audience. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Good introduction immediately focusing the point Comment by CSS-Jordan: Elaborate more on the selection criteria
Aylan Kurdi body was discovered on one of Turkey’s beaches in Bodrum. Images of the horrifying find, photographed by Nilufer Demir from Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, were shared on social media and on the front pages of newspapers around the world, particularly in the U.K. and in Europe. Individuals and organizations handled the decision of whether and how to publish them, those pictures have set alight on a new kind of conversation about the crisis (Laurent, 2015). The power of photography is something we cannot escape from, people are driven by their feelings and emotions and one picture can change a whole attitude towards a crisis, such as what Aylan’s picture did to the international press. The editor of the photojournalism magazine Polka in France Dimitri Beck says that; “It’s not a sophisticated image, even in its framing, but the message is clear and direct: a kid has died and he’s being picked up like a washed-up piece of wood on the beach. There’s nothing more violent.”(Laurent, 2015). Nilufer Demir the photographer behind this picture in an interview with the CNN explained why have she taken this picture by saying; “There was nothing to do except take his photograph … and that is exactly what I did …. I thought, ‘this is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body’.”(CNN, 2015). Every news agency had its own way on expressing their reaction towards this tragedy, and some to a certain extent you can tell that they used it to serve their own agenda’s perhaps. A picture from a beach in Bodrum to 20″,000”,000 screens across the world. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Here you need to divide the content and clearly let the reader to understand that this is not the abstract anymore. Another title is needed here.
The British press viewed the picture of Aylan on the newspapers in different ways, this paper will look at the photo which was published by The Guardian, Metro newspaper and The Sun, each with a different frame of the picture and a different catching title. A series of screenshots of the newspapers pictures will be displayed in order to analyze each one.
[image: ]The Guardian
The Guardian newspaper showed the picture of the police officer holding the body of the dead child Aylan without showing the child’s face. In photojournalism photos of the dead are a highly sensitive issue and the decision of whether or not the photo should be published changes on an event-by-event basis. Fancher a publisher in Seattle times discuses that “Emotion alone isn’t enough for us to publish objectionable material. Our test is whether an important journalistic purpose will be served.” Hence, emotion should not be the ethical test that determines the use or non-use of a photo. However, people now might only be moved if such a photo is on a front page of a daily newspaper.
Metro Comment by CSS-Jordan: Same style as the Guardian
Metro, another British newspaper used a catching title beside a close up of the picture focusing on the police officer’s face. The title was huge blame on Europe which makes someone feel the England is not a part of Europe in this title. The cultural critic and poet David Levi Strauss, believes that the image will live on in history. “It is one of those images that seems to arise from out of the collective unconscious” (Laurent, 2015)
[image: ]The Sun newspaper had put a huge blame on Mr. David Cameron with putting the picture on a newborn child in a Hungarian station next to the picture of the police officer holding Aylan’s body
This use of comparison between Life and Death on one cover and also the blame is a mixed feelings for the audience, I think that this newspaper have selled sold a lot from this cover. Unlike the guardian and Metro newspaper, The Sun had put a huge blame on David Cameron and not only on Europe, as if it is sending message that the United Kingdom is also to be blamed after this image. Goriunova discusses in her study The Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi* that depending on the geography of responses, and correspondingly, on national governments and locally specific political situations, seeing and being moved by the image did not always actualize into action or change. While many authors condemn the UK’s lack of political response, Lin Prøitz’s exploration of the ad-hoc grass-roots campaign #RWTN (refugeeswelcometonorway) that emerged in Norway seems to offer an exception to the other texts in that it shows people being able to carry out significant political change. Its rapid growth seems to have had an effect on Norwegian local elections which is much more positive than the Cameron government’s response to the refugee crisis. (Goriunova, 2015). Comment by CSS-Jordan: This is not a scientific statement. If true you need to prove the relationship between “selling more copies”, “presence of the image here showed”. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Use the same font
[image: ]It is worth looking on how the Syrian press displayed the news of Aylan to the world, escaping for a better future from a battleground of hell, arriving dead into the shores of Bodrum beach. Al Watan Newspaper used the title “Dad.. Please don’t die” ..The last words of the drowned child Aylan Al Kurdi.
Al Watan Newspaper only showed the dead body of Aylan in their frame, with no police officer nor the scenery of the shore, the picture showed the helpless dead body and the waves. Even the red shirt Aylan’s is wearing have its own meaning in this frame, it might indicate death and it will always be remembered. The title of the press release showed how Aylan is asking his dad to stay alive, without knowing that he is the one who will lose his life. Politics will never look at the feeling of this child when he is begging his dad to stay alive, the picture is all what mattered to them, and this is to sell, not to act. Comment by CSS-Jordan: How can we state this? Comment by CSS-Jordan: Add here the transiction to the the other case
[image: ]Since Aylan and his family were trying to take a boat and escape to Canada to seek asylum, this paper will look on how the Canadian press. The Star, a daily top one newspaper in Canada looked at this picture and acted upon it as a wakeup call to giving
Canadian press used the same picture which was used in the British press however with a positive title, a title which brings hope to the refugees and even if we might say Aylan’s family. The Canadian Council for Refugees Janet Dench stated in this article; “I hope this is just the beginning of a bigger, wider response over the coming years.” Comment by CSS-Jordan: Add here the tile of the next the Turkish case
[image: ]The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet daily news where Aylan drowned in their territory also did not
Show the face of Aylan in the picture they published on their front page, instead, also the face of the police officer holding him was shown and the lower part of Aylan’s body. One can think why wasn’t the picture which the Turkish photographer took of Aylan’s body lying on the beach before the police officer picks him up. The police officer Ciplak was asked in an interview to Turkey’s Dogan news Agency about what have he felt when he approached Aylan’s body, Ciplak said: Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, he said: “When I found out he was dead, I was crushed deep down inside. It was a terrible sight, it was a terrible loss. Continues to say that the deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean were a “shame for humanity”, and said he was not aware at the time of the role he was playing in bringing them to international attention (The independent, 2015). This is the job of Ciplak on a daily basis, thousands of other Syrians also lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean though there was no photographer then.
This paper shed some light on how an image can be a powerful tool to change policies and force countries to do an action. Aylan’s picture was used in a different frame in many international newspapers, yet after all it is a photo of a dead child, who lost his life trying to escape cruelty. This paper is asking why were the world introduced with so many frames of Aylan’s picture? Does the world need to see a horrific picture in different forms in order to move? And how are the policies regarding migration have changed in some countries only after this picture was the front page of the news. Have we reached an era where images retained back their power to enact responses and change? Nicolas Jimenez a director of photography at Le Monde stated that “I’m convinced that until you’ve shown this photograph, you haven’t shown the reality of this crisis.” (Laurent, 2015). As for this paper, I think that the picture of Aylan was used to satisfy some personal interests, either to declare that Europe is to blame about not receiving refugees, did Europe needed a shocking picture on international media to move?. After all, and as Ritchin mentions in his article Why violent images matter, discussing the role of the photographer, Ritchin sees that photographers have often preserved that they feel it is necessary to witness and represent the deaths, dreadful injuries and sorrow that they discover in conflict situations, and in many cases have been asked to do so by those who are its victims. Once those pictures are made, however, the implied contract is that they be transmitted and seen by others, especially by those who may have even a small chance of preventing such tragedies from continuing or from multiplying (Ritchin, 2014). Will crisis only be seen from a photographer lens to stop such refugee crisis to multiply? Comment by CSS-Jordan: This might be true according to an agenda setting effect but you need to EMPIRICALLY show it with a robust method. Comment by CSS-Jordan: The question is good but need to be better justified Comment by CSS-Jordan: We cannot use horrific in science so much. The risk is to appear more philosophers than other. Furthermore, who said that the pic HAS A CLEAR EFFECT on policy? This should be proven. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Yes we might assume it is true but we need to empirically show. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Media theories hardly showed this in almost one century of theoretical dissertation. This is because what is assumed here is that media HAVE STRONG EFFECT. The last 40 years of research neglected such strong position in favour of more mitigate ones. Comment by CSS-Jordan: Strong statement like this needs A ROBUST EMPIRICAL BASE TO BE 100% PROVEN. Otherwise we cannot state this at all. Furthermore, personal of whom? Personal might be me, you, everyone!
· Al Watan News, 2015. “بابا أرجوك لا تموت”… اخر كلمات الطفل السوري الغريق إيلان الكردي . [Online] available at: < https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/800032 >.
· Death in the news, Photojournalism: A dying business. [Online], available at < https://deathinthenews.wordpress.com/analysis/ethics-of-death-photos-in-print-media/ > Comment by CSS-Jordan: References should be harmonized in terms of style. Year between brackets etc. (i.e. APA 6th style, ASA etc.)
· Goriunova, O. & Vis, F. (Eds.). (2015). the Iconic Image on Social Media: A Rapid Research Response to the Death of Aylan Kurdi. [Online] available at: < https://research.gold.ac.uk/14624/1/KURDI%20REPORT.pdf >
· Griggs, B. 2015. Photographer describes ‘scream’ of migrant boy’s ‘silent body’. CNN [Online], available at < https://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/03/world/dead-migrant-boy-beach-photographer-nilufer-demir/index.html >
· Hurriyet Daily News, 2015. Drowned Syrian Kurdish toddler sparks fresh horror over Europe migrant crisis. [Online] available at < http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/drowned-syrian-kurdish-toddler-sparks-fresh-horror-over-europe-migrant-crisis-87906 >
· Keung, N., 2015. Syrian Boy’s death reawakens Canadian spirit of giving. The Star. [Online], Available at
· Laurent, O. 2015. What the image of Aylan Kurdi Says About the Power of Photography. TIME. [Online] Available at < http://time.com/4022765/aylan-kurdi-photo/ >
· Ritchin, F. 2014. Why violent news images matter? TIME. [Online] available at < http://time.com/3705884/why-violent-news-images-matter/ >
· Sands. P., 2015. The images that shame our civilization. Sands Media Services. Online, available at < http://sandsmediaservices.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-images-that-shame-our-civilisation.html >
The paper focuses on a problem but did not mention its policy implications in a clear way. Policy implication are potentially given but they must be clearly stated and justified.
The topic appears relevant in the light of a revision of the story telling of refugees on certain media but cannot be proven here if this has agenda setting effect in more sensibilizying policy makers in responding to the Syrian refugees.
No theoretical framework is mentioned here and the topic (as presented) might be framed within the agenda setting theory. No one of the sources we studied in class has been used and sources related to the representation of refugees in media (Class 6) can pertain and fit the purposes of this topic.
We need to justify why we choose these newspapers and not other ones. Classification criteria must be clearer.
Also the analysis needs a substantial revision. For example, you can create a table like this
Presence of police man
Showing face of the boy
Furthers persons in the pic beyond the policeman
If you prefer you can also use absence as 0 and presence as 1 (if you intend to proceed quantitatively).
If you wish to connect to further variables you need to systematize also policy amendement following the picture but BE CAUTIOUS because this does not mean that the pic PROVOKED the willingness to amend policy in a X country (this is another research!)