Following his capture and death on 20th October 2011, the media posted recordings and images of the bloody body of the late Muammar Gaddafi (Guardia, 2011). The pictures of the moment before and after his death were recorded as “the most graphic and distressing representations we have ever seen of a recognizable individual during his final moments” (Lawson, 2011, p. 1).
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The argument was “in instinctively suspicious and conspiratorial age, national and international communities, a global village of doubting Thomases, will only accept that the villain is dead if they have seen the corpse” (Lawson, 2011, p. 1).
However, this argument is challenged by the fact that it could not stand during the death of Osama Bin Laden since it raised mockery to the American government which secretly carried out the execution. Not all the people who accessed the media were ready to receive such scenes. As we will learn later, many people were disgusted in seeing the bloody images of the body of the late Muammar Gaddafi, and many even raised complains on the same.
Gaddafi deserved a private death regardless of his failures in leadership: he was a human being who had rights even in his death, a leader, who had given himself to his country, and privacy in his death was necessary in protection of what the media offered to the public.
Muammar Gaddafi deserved a Private Death
Muammar Gaddafi having served the Libyan people since 1969 deserved to be recognized as a leader and seeing the images of his bloody body all over the media was a distressful representation of his legacy and the years he gave to the Libyan people.
Many objections have been aired by people against media sites to avoid displaying the pictures and as Lawson (2011) put it, “there should be dignity and privacy in death, and the obligation imposed on editors not to cause unnecessary or unheralded offence to sensitive consumers” (Lawson, 2011, p. 1). His last moments though a tyrant, deserved to be made private just like Bill Clinton wished he could have a private life (Lawson, 2011).
Publicizing his death was not only unethical but also against human rights. The violation posed a threat to many leaders and is a clear indication that they are not protected even in the time of their death since the media is “the threshold for publishing gruesome images” (Heneghan, 2011, p. 1) hence making it difficult for the work of the editorial team to regulate what should go to the public and what should not.
In the Gaddafi case, the media broadcast what they received from the people who did mobile phone recordings without fear of what the images could mean to the public. The newspapers of all the media failed to protect decency and values since it captures a great field of readers, including children. This exposed the children to scenes that were antisocial to them and who knows what the scenes will create in their minds and the future significance of such shows.
Worst of this was that this was done using Gaddaffi, the 42 years leader and revolution list. This was an act of degrading his efforts and many years in seeing that Libya became independent, and all the citizens got their basic needs. As did his victims in the Lockerbie bombing, Gaddafi deserved a private death as the media “by common consensus suppressed horrific images in the cause of taste and privacy” (Lawson, 2011, p. 1).
If not for anything else, Gaddafi like any other person who has made an impact in his nation deserved a private death. Despite his dictatorship and the many dangers his governance posed to his subjects, he still had his positive side.
Hope (2011) quoted United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization report that it was during his tenure that Libya “made strides in public health and, since 1980, child mortality rates dropped from 70 per thousand live births to 19 in 2009. Life expectancy raised from 61 to 74 years of age during the same span of years” (Hope, 2011, p. 1) and WHO recorded that:
Health care is available to all citizens free of charge by the public sector. The country boasts the highest literacy and educational enrollment rates in North Africa. The Government is substantially increasing the development budget for health services. (Hope, 2011, p. 1)
That was not the first time such recordings were being carried out; it was a continuation of the wrong editorial decorum first evidenced with Hussein’s death and now with Gaddafi (Lawson, 2011). This explains that the media has failed in meeting editorial standards since according to Lawson (2011) it is a taboo to broadcasters and newspapers to show shots in terminal extremes. This was a great violation of the “principles of taste and privacy that the media is aware of and should not abandon” (Lawson, 2011, p. 1).
However, this time round, the footage was basically done by curious on lookers on phones and for the media to pull the audience to themselves, they followed suit in displaying the bloody coverage since the information could still be available in many other sources. Greenslade (2011) quoted Chris Elliot saying the act of publicizing Gaddafi’s death as “gratuitous, exploitative or triumphalism” (Greenslade, 2011, p. 1).
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He added that “with the pictures all over the net, it would have seemed strange for newspapers to ignore them. Editors would appear to be failing in their duty to report on the reality of Gaddafi’s death” (Greenslade, 2011, p.1). As argued by Greebsalde (2011), taking Gaddafi’s death to the public was a display of “gruesome, grisly, ghastly news” (p. 1) that portrayed “brutality and chaos” (p. 1).
The risk in this as seen by Lawson (2011) is the possibility of coming up with a culture of death porn, which is against the media principles. The media should go back to those days when they used to protect the customers taste and privacy.
Giving warnings to viewers and newspaper readers that the images may be found to be offensive is not enough, Lawson (2011) advised that “The most potentially upsetting images could be kept from general bulletins and front pages and restricted to online boxes which, like the curtained-off sections of art galleries, allow admission only to those who know what they are getting” (p. 1).
Many broadcasting stations in Europe and United States did the broadcast with warnings of disturbing images about to be shown (Heneghan, 2011).
One is left wondering if such footage could be done if it were concerning a white person. Though this question could lead to criticism between the whites and non-whites, it showed a major divide between the two. One could interpret it as a way of displaying racial discrimination, which will affect the global interaction between the whites and the non-whites.
From the many complaints received by BBC and news editors within the 24 hours, it was a clear indication that Gaddafi’s death did not have to be publicized the way it was. An example was the reader who wrote:
I have your newspaper as my homepage on my computer. I am a faithful reader who enjoys your angle on the news. However, today I am shocked and disgusted by the horrific images of a mangled corpse and people gloating over it that confronts me … if you must air these images, at least bury them with a warning as to their gruesome nature, so I needn’t have my soul polluted by this horror-porn should I not wish it. (Elliot, 2011, p. 1)
As Elliot put it, several wondered “about the relative frequency with which pictures of white and non-white corpses are published; to me the latter seem disproportionate” (Elliot, 2011, p. 1). This was demeaning and could only cause much hatred between the whites and non- whites.
Regardless of whom Gaddafi was and what he had done before as compared with the rest of the people, it was wrong to parade his battered body through the streets. If there were any celebrations to be done, they still could have been done without his body since the act was going against the respect for the dead that should be upheld for everybody. Allowing Libyans to flock the morgue and take photographs of his dead body was one great mistake.
Nobody was sure how many could stand seeing the photos and remain undisturbed. This was being insensitive and a crime against humanity, to the family members and supporters of Gaddafi, who were not in a celebration mood. Gilligan recorded his observation when passing by on the fateful day “the streets were fairly quiet” (p. 1) which meant they were mourning the death of their hero.
Taking children to view the bloody wounded body was wrong; this could have future problems with the credibility of Libyan’s new rules since his death already exposed some of its weaknesses (Gilligan, 2011). The risk in that could be in the future where these children as grownups will fail to honor the government since out of this show clearly “Libya government does not have a functioning standard, only a collection of militias” (Gilligan, 2011, p. 1).
Clearly Gaddaffi deserved a private death regardless of his failures in leadership. First, as a human being who had rights even in his death, two as a leader, who had given himself to his country, three in protection of what the media offered to the public. There were many complaints against the display made of the images of the body if the late leader.
Respect for his dead body was more important in protecting the feelings of losing this great leader in his supporter since we cannot assume he had no supporters. To cub conclusions on racial discrimination that could lead to minimal global interaction between the whites and the non- whites, keeping Gaddafi’s death private was the way out since it could serve as a way of disapproving his sentiments to the U.S. government as a sadist government which he had instilled in his supporters.
To protect the country from further problems when the children in the time of Gaddafi’s death will be adults, it was paramount that his death should have been private. To children, leaders are heroes and when such is exposed during their death; it might be interpreted differently in the mind of children which could posse further threats to future peace and tranquility of a given country.
Elliot, C. (2011). Photographs of Muammar Gaddafi’s corpse. The Guardian. Web.
Gilligan, A. (2011). Muammar Gaddafi’s grisly death raises questions the length of Libya’s revolutionary road. The Telegraph. Web.
Greenslade, R. (2011). Death of Dictator. The Guardian. Web.
Guardian. (2011). Muammar Gaddafi is dead, NTC says live coverage. The Guardian. Web.
Heneghan, T. (2011). Shock image threshold falls under internet pressure. Reuters. Web.
Hope, T. (2011). Gaddafi’s Death: Celebrating Murder While Ushering in Civil War. Word Press. Web.
Lawson, M. (2011). Even Muammar Gaddafi deserved a private death. The Guardian. Web