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Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis Report


Compliance with the basic ethical principles in journalism is, perhaps, an intrinsically controversial concept, since the very nature of journalism implies that people should be tricked, if not shocked, into paying attention to a certain issue. More importantly, the incorporation of the subjects related to political, economic, and sociocultural problems that the contemporary society faces does not add to the rather narrow range of opportunities for rounding the rough edges (Patching and Hurst 96).

Even though the picture under analysis, in which a child is being held at a gunpoint, can be interpreted as a shocking content and a graphic representation of violence that is inappropriate for showing in a newspaper, it must be seen by people and, thus, included in the article, so that the current global problems that pose a threat to humanity should not be swept under the rug.


The picture in question portrays a child, possibly a boy, on their knees. Three guns are pointed at the child, yet the faces of the people holding the armor are not shown, with only the elements of the military uniform being visible. Based on the picture, it can be assumed that it addresses a military conflict. The article on the issue of violence against Syrian refugees at the Turkish border, in its turn, will immediately frame the picture in the context of the contemporary political events., sending a message about the abhorrent crimes against humanity committed in the identified area.

When considering the validity of the picture as the possible medium of information to be included in a newspaper article, one must bring up the fact that the portrayals of violence are typically inadmissible in the identified types of publications. Therefore, there seem to be rather few chances for the picture to be included in the description of the current events in Syria. Therefore, it could be considered as passable in terms of the restrictions on portraying violence in media (Kennedy and Patrick 97).

One might claim, however, that the picture does not contain any elements that can be interpreted as having explicitly violent elements. For instance, there is no blood in the picture, it does not portray the corpses of the people murdered during the Syrian conflict, etc. Nevertheless, the very fact that a gun is held against a child serves as a graphic representation of the outrageous lack of any ethics in the environment that Syrian refugees have to survive in.

The unnatural position that the child is in while the owners of the guns aimed at him emphasize the tragedy of the situation and the overall gravity of the issue, in general. The picture screams for taking action and addressing the Syrian conflict. Therefore, it can be deemed as valid for using it as a support for making a statement.

To the credit of those that may consider the image inappropriate for showing it in a newspaper or any other resource available to all members of the population, one must admit that it is very manipulative. It panders to the emotions of moralists, using the concept of child abuse as one of the most abhorrent phenomena to make a point. Indeed, incorporating the imagery that addresses people’s emotions instead of calling to their ability to think rationally can be viewed as a graphic representation of manipulating evidence.

Nevertheless, publishing the picture can be considered the first step toward making a change. Although appealing to people’s emotions to make a political decision would be wrong, it is still necessary to stir their emotions so that they could realize the necessity to be politically active. Once supported by sensible and reasonable ideas, the picture is placed in the context that justifies the use of visual information that would have been considered as manipulative in any other scenario (Committee to Protect Journalism 152).

Personal Opinion

I must admit that I am rather conflicted about the idea of using the picture in question in a newspaper about the issue of Syrian refugees to prove a point. On the one hand, it is imperative to shed light on the trials and tribulations that the people escaping from Syria have to go through to get to safety. The picture, in its turn, serves as a perfect way of showing that the procedure currently involves facing the threat of not merely death but also incredible suffering and pain (Clements and Urbain 135).

On the other hand, the concern for the fact that the photo panders to the very basic and barely controllable emotions of people makes me question the decency of the decision. By incorporating the picture into the article, one is likely to address primarily a very gullible and emotional segment of the population, thus, calling people to form opinions before actually evaluating the situation and considering the political implications of the choices that state representatives may make in the given situation.

Because of the emotional; context that the picture creates instantly, I feel very conflicted about including it in the article. Because of the violence portrayed in the image and the concept of child violence that is implanted in it, the photo can be evaluated easily outside of its context. It bears a very distinct connotation that sends a powerful message (Seethaler, Karmasin, and Melischek 20).

Also, there is no secret that numerous crimes against refugees of all ages, and both genders have been committed as people are crossing the border between Syria and Turkey. Both adults and children suffer greatly, facing the threat of being murdered in the process of crossing the border. However, it was the image of a child being held at a gunpoint that was chosen as the image representing the horrors of the war in Syria. The selection of the imagery contrasts with the socially accepted idea of morality so strongly that the opinions of the viewers are shaped instantly, which makes the picture very controversial and, therefore, rather questionable as something to be published in a newspaper (Roger 166).


Regardless of the emotional context that the picture creates, I believe that it must be used in the newspaper as the means of portraying the current issues faced by immigrants from Syria as they escape to Turkey across the border. Although the image is admittedly manipulative, it, nevertheless, points to the fact that the present-day political situation in the identified area creates premises for the scenarios that can only be described as crimes against humanity.

Despite the possibility of violence against children and other vulnerable members of the population being extremely rare, these phenomena need to be viewed by the general audience along with the images that portray different scenarios so that the target audience could have a complete picture of what is happening in Syria at present. Thus, people will be able to assess the problem and start working toward its solution.

Works Cited

Clements, Kevin P., and Oliver Urbain. Risk and Uncertainty: Understanding and Dialogue in the 21st Century. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2013. Print.

Committee to Protect Journalism. Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World’s Front Lines. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print.

Kennedy, Liam, and Catlin Patrick. The Violence of the Image: Photography and International Conflict. New York, NY: I. B. Tauris, 2014. Print.

Patching, Rodger, and Martin Hurst. Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases for the Twenty-first Century. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Roger, Nathan. Image Warfare in the War on Terror. New York, NY: Springer, 2013. Print.

Seethaler, Josef, Matthias Karmasin, Gabriele Melischek. Selling War: The Role of the Mass Media in Hostile Conflicts from World War I to the “War on Terror.” Chicago, IL: Intellect Books, 2013. Print.

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"Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis." IvyPanda, 16 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-of-war-journalism-the-syrian-crisis/.

1. IvyPanda. "Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-of-war-journalism-the-syrian-crisis/.


IvyPanda. "Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-of-war-journalism-the-syrian-crisis/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-of-war-journalism-the-syrian-crisis/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Ethics of War Journalism: the Syrian Crisis'. 16 September.

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