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February 21, 2019

Kenyans furious with New York Times for posting Dusit terror photos

A survivor of the Dusit terror attack. /EZEKIEL AMIN'GA
A survivor of the Dusit terror attack. /EZEKIEL AMIN'GA

New York Times bore the brunt of angry Kenyans in the wake of the terror attack at Dusit Hotel complex on Tuesday after the outlet published horrific photos of victims of the attack on Twitter.

The US-based media house had its photo handle @NYTphoto suspended by Twitter for violation.

A subsequent tweet by its news handle @nytimes justifying the publication of the photos is what drew the ire of Kenyans on Twitter.

"We have heard from some readers upset with our publishing of a photo showing victims after a brutal attack in Nairobi. We understand how painful this coverage can be and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images," it said.

It went on: "But we also believe it is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this. This includes showing pictures that are not sensationalised but that give a real sense of the situation."

The paper said inasmuch as it respects the victims and those affected by the attack, it stood by its policy to inform the world of occurrences like this even as it worked at balancing between sensitivity and showing the reality of what happens.

But Kenyans on Twitter were quick to castigate the paper with some like Laura Walubengo calling the justification "absolute hogwash".

"Are you insinuating your story stood to suffer from a lack of meaning or falling out of context if it failed to include the image taken at the restaurant? @dis_is_di asked.

"What a disgrace, you can afford to justify stupidity. Shame on You!" said @teddythadeejay

"Presumably we will be seeing photos of children in the next mass shootout in the US so we can "get a real sense of the situation" right?" @MarionneRyan said.

Dennis Itumbi, the State House digital director said showing photos of dead people is insensitive and does not add value to the story.

"The only purpose is to glorify a terrorist bullet. Unfortunately, by an outlet we consider to be a global example of fine journalism. Show pictures of human triumph!" he said.

Itumbi questioned why New York Times never published photos of the 9/11 attack in New York but it was quick to do so in the Kenya's case.

"We saw police cars and hugs in your story. Human triumph, love and the beauty of response...but hey in Africa different approaches apply!" he said.

‏@JeniferShamalla said the photos did not infuriate just a section of Kenyans like it tried to portray but the entire country.

"Some Readers" is an understatement. You have heard from KENYANS. While we believe in the freedom of expression, we also believe that decent people uphold the right to dignity even in death," she said.

"An apology with a 'but' is not an apology," said @lennynjagi, adding there was no justification whatsoever.

"You messed up big time, just accept and take corrective action.... Period!" he said.

@MainaBugi said the level of reporting only works to reinforce negative stereotypes with @paulachar calling on the Media Council to revoke credential for journalists attached to the media house.

Others like @Esthertony wondered why the media house never puts up victims of horrendous gun attacks the US has witnessed over the years.

@BenjaminIsOteko said, "Considering that last year there were over 300 mass shootings in US, I'm expecting to see at least 600 bodies riddled with bullets on the @nytimes . That is if you are just trying to give "a clear picture" of the horror of such events."

Geunero, an American, responded saying "they SHOULD show the bodies of people in the aftermath of our horrifying gun massacres".

"One of the big reasons Americans do nothing about them is because the events are always sanitised. No bodies, just pictures of families hugging and crying. No blood, no reality, easy to forget," he said.

@FatGirlNairobi said the media outlet to stop "institutionalised hate" on Kenyans.

By Wednesday morning, security agencies had managed to rescue more hostages who were hiding in the highrise complex at night.

Among them was Ronald Ng'eno who had put out emotional tweets on Tuesday asking Kenyans to pray for him.

"I'm now out and I thank God for saving our lives. His angels really protected us. Full of gratitude to the Kenya Police and Kenya Defence Forces," he said.

A senior police officer privy to the operation said all the attackers had been killed by morning.

Jane Gaty, head of corporate and communication at MP Shah Hospital, said they had received seven victims of the attack by Wednesday morning.

"Two men and five women. One lady was confirmed dead on arrival yesterday (Tuesday). Two are in ICU, but I cannot disclose more details while the rest are responding well to treatment. None has been discharged," she said.

Reports indicate at least 15 bodies of the victims of the attack had been taken to the City Mortuary although authorities were yet to issue a confirmation.

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