Powerful Journalism or Political Exploitation

The cover of this week’s ‘Time’ magazine has whipped up a storm with all sorts of questions raised. I felt that NDTV covered it very well, showing the picture in full so that readers can see the full power of its imagery. They also set out in a very balanced way the opposing arguments surrounding the Afghan circumstances it represents, but also the political controversy about Time’s use of the image and the way they have portrayed it.

NDTV Article on Time Cover Picture

For hundreds of years there have been arguments around what came to be known as ‘the white man’s burden’ – the perception (conscious or unconscious) amongst some ‘westerners’ (historically Europeans, but since twentieth century more Americans) that they had a civilizing role to play in the world. It often manifested in the past as a presumption that Christianity was a superior religion and that there was a duty to take it to every corner of the world to ‘enlighten the blind.’

Over the years even quite left-leaning organisations such as Greenpeace have been accused of such cultural superiority when tackling seal culls and whale hunts. For example, how would people in India feel if Time started running front covers on the behaviours of Khap panchayats? On the other hand, in an ever more ‘globally connected’ world is there a common set of morals and ethics that can be deemed to apply anywhere in the world? If so, is it then the duty of the world’s media to raise the issues where they believe this common code has been violated? Who has the right to shape that common code?


One Response

  1. In India, media and/or public intervention has changed the course of events as evidenced by the Jessica Lall murder case and the senior citizen Mrs. Sarkar’s house-grabbing case. It is the same lack of cause celebre on the part of the media that has pushed the deaths of the 42 labourers working on the CWG venues to public oblivion. Anything that goes against the grain of humanity has the same repercussions in any society/culture. And women and animals continue to bear the brunt of human atrocities anywhere, at varying degrees.

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