Syria: Local Photographers Reflect on Powerful Images of War

A free press is the first casualty of war. Independent national outlets are overrun, threatened or shuttered. Foreign journalists are barred from entry, kidnapped or executed. Local journalists who remain to bear witness in turn bear the brunt. We have seen this and more in Syria.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, of the at least 101 journalists who have been killed there since 2011, 88% were local and 27% were classified as photographers. Many others have been intimidated, abducted, maimed or forced into exile. Foreigners who venture in stick to the Kurdish-controlled territory in the north or are allowed access to government-controlled areas. But the majority of pictures that emerge, especially in opposition-held areas, are from Syrians themselves. Activist media networks tweet pictures of the latest carnage, hoping to reach change-makers. Doctors and nurses send reporters unpublishable images of the latest tragedies to unravel in their emergency rooms using tools like WhatsApp. And much of the imagery that appears in online news, in print and on television is shot by local stringers with international agencies, some working under pseudonyms due to safety concerns. They are the last-ditch effort for independent eyes and ears on the ground.

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The Story Behind the ‘Napalm Girl’ Photo Censored by Facebook

The photo cemented Western public opinion against the war in Vietnam

This week, Facebook briefly removed and quickly reinstated one of the most powerful images to emerge from war—a 1972 photograph of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl—after initially saying the image violates the company’s policies on displaying nudity. A censorship battle ensued.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Norway’s Aftenposten, slammed Mark Zuckerberg for a perceived abuse of power, calling the CEO of Facebook “the world’s most powerful editor.” On Friday, the company reinstated the picture and said “the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.” An initial Facebook statement recognized its iconic status but said “it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”

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