Polish public outraged over published photo of killed journalist

14-05-2004

The coverage in a Polish newspaper of the death of a prominent Polish war correspondent Waldemar Milewicz has sparked off heated debate in Poland on ethical standards in journalism and on the Polish mission in Iraq in general.

Waldemar Milewicz, photo: AP, www.fakty.interia.plWaldemar Milewicz, photo: AP, www.fakty.interia.pl The public in Poland was shocked to hear that a prominent TV war correspondent, 48 year-old Waldemar Milewicz, was shot dead in Iraq. Another shock came the following day when the popular colour tabloid Super Express front-paged photos of the reporter's body. Milewicz and his production assistant, Algerian-born Mounir Bouamrane, were shot and killed by unknown attackers outside Baghdad. The photo printed on the front page of Super Express shows Milewicz on the backseat of the car the crew was travelling in, his head leaning leftwards against the rest-head. His eyes are closed, there are blood stains on his face, hands and shirt; pieces of broken glass scattered over his body.

The publication of the photographs raised a wave of protests from various circles. Mariusz Ziomecki, editor-in-chief of Super Express, doesn't see anything morally wrong in the publication:

"This was the best picture available I could use to convey the emotional proof about the situation in Iraq where Poland has huge stakes and where we seem to be in snarl in an increasingly dangerous conflict. I found no reason, moral or journalistic, to withhold this picture and I stand by this decision."

The publication became the subject of an intense debate among leading media figures, politicians and journalists. Many journalists and news organizations, particularly broadcasters, drafted an open letter of condemnation aimed at Super Express. A similar statement was issued by the Association of Polish Journalists, which argues that the publication was a clear violation of human and journalist ethics. The association's deputy head Andrzej Krajewski.

"Death is a mystery; death is something sacred in all cultures. And by printing this picture, Super Express broke this culture taboo. And it was especially painful for the family of these two dead persons. And this is why we said that we are urging our colleagues, our friends, editors, not to follow the path to be a journalist hyena."

A day after the death of two Polish TV reporters, two Polish soldiers were killed in Iraq, in separate incidents. All this has brought again Poland's participation in the international mission in Iraq to the centre of public attention. The Super Express tabloid has launched a campaign under the motto 'No Poles in Iraq'.

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