Why did we have to see the Westgate bodies?

On Saturday I was horrified to spend hours upon hours watching the unfolding events in Nairobi, Kenya.
Sunny Ntayombya
Sunny Ntayombya

On Saturday I was horrified to spend hours upon hours watching the unfolding events in Nairobi, Kenya.

The sight of people fleeing the Westgate mall, some wounded and all terrified made me so angry that I could barely breathe. I mean, how could evil men (led, according to reports, by a British-born woman), have the guts to kill and maim innocent men, women and children?

Who gave them the right to prematurely end their lives? I wish to send my prayers and heartfelt condolences to those who lost relatives and friends in the carnage. To the perpetrators I say, there is a dark, dark place in hell awaiting you.

Same goes to those evil forces that are throwing grenades at home.

By the time you read this column, the Kenyan authorities would have probably finished the mopping-up exercise and its my hope that the death toll doesn’t rise beyond the 62 people killed.

I am not able, nor do I want, to analyse these people’s motives, unlike say, Giles Foden, author of ‘The Last King of Scotland.’ He actually had the temerity to argue in a column in The Guardian newspaper, that Kenya brought this upon themselves.

He had the guts to write, even as gunshots could still be heard in the building, that “You can gesture at the transnational problem of Islamist terrorism all you like, but it’s just hot air unless you invest in proper security on the ground in your own country, with the right safeguards to civil liberties. For now Kenya must mourn its dead. But unless the corruption stops, and real investment is made in the social fabric, Kenya will once again be faced with systemic shocks it is hardly able to deal with”. Disgusting.

How in the world could he try to blame Kenyans for this atrocity? This kind of attack has happened in every continent and, if we are to be truthful, more often than not in the countries that have little ‘corruption’, tonnes of civil liberties and a ‘strong’ social fabric (whatever that means).

Islamist terrorism has ravaged New York, Madrid, London and Boston with nary a word from Foden. Perhaps it is because he knows that if he dared try to blame the actions of cowards and murderers on the innocent victims, he’d be run out of town. This brings me to the crux of my issues with not just Foden’s article, but the manner in which the tragic story has been reported by international media.

From the macabre fascination with the ‘white ringleader’ to the death of the Canadian diplomat, and the ‘super-hero’ British SAS “who singlehandedly saved over 100 people” I have got a sense that the Kenyan victims are being pushed aside amid all this white ‘horror’.

This lack of sensitivity became crystal clear, at least in my eyes, by the manner in which photographs the bodies of the victims were splashed across our newspapers and televisions.

It was revolting. Not only because these poor people deserved the dignity in death that the terrorists refused to give them while they were still alive, but because I know, with cast-iron certainty, that no editor in the West would have allowed to show the bodies of their victims.

I watched the Boston Marathon bombings live as did many other people. Did anyone see even one single body there? Why? What about 9-11? We know that more than 2000 people died that day; did we see a single body? What about in London? What about in Moscow during the theatre siege? 130 hostages died that day but did we see them on our screens, in the throes of death? No.

But in Syria no one has the good taste and media ‘ethics‘ to NOT show babies killed by conventional and chemical weapons. This hypocrisy is sickening and makes my blood boil because there is absolutely no journalistic reason to show the dead.

It only shows a lack of respect to the victims of conflict and terrorism in developing nations. It is during times like these that I feel ashamed to be a member of the global media fraternity.

Sunny Ntayombya is a journalist with The New Times and currently a post-graduate student in China          

Twitter: @sannykigali
Blog: sunnyntayombya.wordpress.com


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