Journalist’s act of rescuing girl during Kashmir violence triggers ethics debate

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A journalist, who reports for a leading news agency in India’s troubled region of Kashmir, was caught in crossfire recently and ended up leaving his camera to rescue young victims of violence.

During the clashes between civilians and the army in Srinagar last week, Associated Press photojournalist, Dar Yasin handed over his camera to another photographer to help a young girl student injured during a protest in Kashmir. The photo of Yasin carrying young girl named Khushboo Jan has gone viral following which Dar also visited the rescued girl at her home.

A Hindustan Times report says that Yasin’s action is being hailed as “incredibly humanitarian and socially responsible, by the people of Kashmir as well as his colleagues.” The report cites instances of the past when journalists were confronted with similar circumstances.

For instance, Kevin Carter was criticized back in 1993 for neglecting to help a famished Sudanese child suffering in vicinity of a vulture. Though the photo helped raise funds and won a Pulitzer, many articulated concerns over the fate of the child and even named Carter “another predator”.

The ethics debate

Raghu Rai, who has covered the war for Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 and conflicts in Kashmir, expressed his opinion on the issue. “If someone is dying and I am the only one there to help, if there is no one else around, I will take a quick photo of the situation and then try to help the person. But if there are others to help, my responsibility would be to capture the intensity of the moment,” he said.

Rai noted another moral problem facing photojournalists, “If there is a clash between two groups, my involvement to protect one or the other, can be construed as my bias in favor of or against them.”

Another instance often cited is “The Falling Man” photo, which became iconic after 9/11. It was disturbingly captioned as a ‘calm’ moment whilst falling from the tower. Rai agrees that one can capture the monstrousness of a tragedy without showing extremely disturbing images referring to a shot of the bodies floating in the tank during Bangladesh war of 1971. He said he avoided showing any “close-ups of faces or other body parts,” he says.

According to Rai, as photojournalist in the time of social media immoderations “ethics and responsible coverage should be what sets a professional apart from social media amateurs.”