Disrespect: Pulitzer Center publishes pictures of exhumed dead Ugandan child

Before I went to bed last night i was troubled by a post on a facebook page of friend which read:

“I may be wrong, but this story, I think, is a horrible attempt at taking journalism to another, undesired level. Marco, you didn’t have to exhume a body to take pictures, mate! That doesn’t stop the killing of kids: it shocks the s**t out of some of us”

I left him my thoughts as i prepared this post. Another follower put:

I agree with Joshua and Rosebell, this is a sad/horrible attempt at taking journalism to another level, if at all it was journalism anyway.The writer was not only insensitive to their pain, culture, I also think it was unprofessional.

The words exhuming a body caught my attention with a rush of adrenaline. I hit the link and I am taken to the Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting page. Before I start reading a story by Marco Vernaschi I see a warning: “Please be advised the following project contains graphic images that may not be suitable for all audiences.***

I read the story and before I came to picture I get lines about how this journalist sponsored by Pulitzer Untold stories series came to Uganda to report about child sacrifice. The Child’s name Babirye Mergret, 10 years old had been mutilated and murdered. Read Marco’s whole story here.

It turns out in the search for what Marco calls visual evidence, led him to convince the chief of the village and after some attempts succeed to convince the family to dig up the body of their child whom they had only burried a day before in order for him to take pictures.

This journalist also gave money to the family which he hints was for them to afford justice but a police officer incharge of the case said the money was  actually to influence the mother to allow for the illegal exhumation of the body but not for a defence lawyer. The pictures have since been taken down from other sites after many calls. The Vigilante Journalist also published the photos has since then explained their conversations with the journalist and published a response from the police in Uganda.

Such journalism exhibits what I  call ‘Am -gonna-save-africa by a photo’ attitude that many foriegn journalist come to Africa armed with. Where else in the world would a journalist harass a grieving family and promises that pictures of their dead would be for their benefit. I detected such attitude in his words.

I try to imagine the fear and pain Babirye has experienced while a monster ironically called a “healer” was killing her; I imagine her 10 year-old, wide-open eyes crying and staring at the machete that took her life away. And I firmly believe, more than ever since I’m in Uganda, that this horrible death can be turned into something that will help prevent other crimes like this . – Marco

Respecting the dead is very much appreciated in the western media and the western world which i believe was the target audience of  Marco’s story.  For all the years that American and British soldiers have died in what many now accept was an illegitimate war in Iraq, I have never seen pitures of blown up bodies or pieces of those soldiers in the western media as an attempt to show the world how gruesome the war has been.  I have seen enough condemnations of videos of beheadings of westerners that media houses in the Middle East have sometimes played. So am wondering why a center like Pulitzer would fall for such cheap sensational journalism.

The Western media either out of ignorance, lack of respect or their over-assumed power to change the wrongs in Africa, publishes sensantial pictures from Africa about the dying and the starving and now the dead.  I can’t think of any other thought that Marco had apart from that eagerness to potray the wrongs in the most extreme ways including digging up of bodies all for a picture.

This is sheer insensitivity to people who are hurting and lying to obtain information. Infact what Marco did without speaking like an enforcement officer could land him a jail sentence for disturbing the dead. For Marco’s knowledge, Human sacrifice is a story that the Ugandan media has cover consistently and it has made it to major international papers in recent months. The same stories about Albino sacrifice in Tanzania and Burundi are well documented and there have been campaigns to curb that.  It is just that there’s limited mechanisms to stop these child abductions and killing from happening and the digging up od bodies in the wee hours of the morning will not eradicate the problem.