BBC defends airing disturbing Gaddafi death footage

While Sky News, ITN Productions and the BBC News programmes all screened footage from yesterday’s capture and murder of the former Libyan tyrant it’s the BBC who are defending the broadcasts.

The footage, which showed the dictator being discovered in a waste pipe and then dragged through the streets was shown in reports on the BBC News Channel, Sky News – partly rebroadcasts from CNN, ITV News at 6.30 and BBC News at Six.

Both BBC and ITV channels also aired footage in their after-watershed 10pm news shows.

The images and footage has been described as “undoubtedly shocking and disturbing” however the BBC have stated that the broadcaster was editorially justified in screening them in order to put in to perspective the scale of Thursday’s gruesome events.

Mary Hockaday, head of the multimedia at the BBC newsroom, said on her BBC blog that using grainy images of a beaten and bloodied Gaddafi captured from mobile phones at the scene moments before the tyrant’s death was the right thing for the corporation’s news output to do.

“In the age of mobile phones, footage of the capture of Gaddafi soon started to emerge.” She said, adding, “We could not always be clear of its origins so it was important to make what checks we could and then be very clear with our audiences what we’d been able to verify and what we hadn’t.
“The other challenge was posed by the nature of the footage itself – very graphic, some of it showing Gaddafi alive but manhandled and bloody and other footage and stills showing his dead and bloodied body. We judged that it was right to use some footage and stills, with warnings about their nature.”

Today British newspapers have come in for criticism for printing stills of the demise of Gaddafi across their front pages, with further graphic imagery contained across inner pages. Online newspaper websites, as well as Sky News Online, were swift to upload Gaddafi’s 42-year-legacy in photographs, many using a graphic death image as their final photo. The BBC as of today, so far, have not used any of yesterdays footage online.

Social networking sites have seen many users complain that the press and TV coverage has been a step too far. ATV media critic Justin Mason says, “Had a captured British soldier’s corpse been broadcast on several TV stations in Libya and spread across the front page of a couple of Libyan newspapers The Sun would have been up in arms over it. You can’t say its right for one person and wrong for another, you must have a clear definition of what is right to do, and make sure it is upheld no mater who is the subject of the content. Whether they’re for good or for evil shouldn’t be a consideration.”

Images of yesterdays events will for some time continue to stir debate, certainly on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, however the BBC stand firm with their view on transmitting Gaddafi’s violent end, Hockaday says;

“There were undoubtedly shocking and disturbing images from yesterday. But as a news organisation our role is to report what happened… We thought carefully about the use of pictures – which incidentally we used more sparingly than many other UK media – and I believe that overall they were editorially justified to convey the nature of yesterday’s dramatic and gruesome events.”

Currently the Sky News Online website has several videos of the capture and death of Gaddafi, however all come with a pre-warning of graphic scenes.