Gruesome photographs of Palestinian children killed in rocket strikes and Israeli infants murdered by terrorists. Digitally doctored images that whip around social media before they can be verified. Accusations — since rejected by multiple news outlets — that photojournalists had advance knowledge of the Hamas surprise attack on Oct. 7.
The visual chronicle of the war between Israel and Hamas has become its own disturbing case study of the age of disinformation, where photographs, and the act of photojournalism itself, are weaponized by both sides of a highly charged conflict. For newsrooms in the United States and Europe, the question of which images to publish — and which are too graphic or misleading to be published — has rarely been more complex.
"In every war, there is a war of narratives," said Jonathan Levy, the executive editor of Sky News. "You've got to be really mindful, not just of the potential harm to the audience of being exposed to some of that imagery, but also how you manage it."
In interviews, editors at newspapers, TV stations and wire agencies said they had devoted countless hours in recent weeks to what many said was ultimately a delicate judgment call: deciding what their audiences saw and heard about the war. Among the factors is how much horror a viewer or reader can tolerate, and whether an image sensationalizes or trivializes violence. News outlets also feel a responsibility to victims and their families, who may not be aware that a relative has been killed or badly injured.
"You want to get the most realistic view of what's happening on the ground; you want to show the pictures," said Greg Headen, who oversees domestic and international coverage at Fox News. "In many cases, though, we cannot. Some of the images we have seen are so gruesome, they can't even be described on TV."
War photography has resulted in some of the most indelible images of global conflict, from a flag-raising on Iwo Jima in World War II to a screaming Vietnamese girl burned by napalm. That visceral power is why Israeli and Hamas authorities, along with their supporters, have used social media and other channels to circulate images intended to rally public sympathy to their side.
In deciding whether to amplify such pictures, news organizations assess their newsworthiness using similar editorial criteria as applied to facts and written reportage. Editors might consider the motivations of the source of the picture, and whether it contributes to a balanced portrayal of events.
What One Photo Shows About a Gaza Hospital in Chaos 從一張照片看一間加薩醫院亂成一團
文/ Samar Abu Elouf and Eric N
"Red!" "Yellow!" "Green!"
The air at Nasser Hospital is pierced by the cries of medical workers getting their first look at patients coming in from a city under siege. Red is not good. It is for the most seriously wounded people, but even the other codes offer little comfort in a hospital stripped of the most basic necessities.
It is generally very difficult to learn much about the patients I photograph. In this case, a man with medical forms on him was said to have been pulled from the rubble. What was his name? I do not know. Did he survive? I do not know that, either.
But he appeared to have two things possibly going in his favor: He was a Green. And he was given a space, if only on the floor. The hospital cannot afford to waste time on those who clearly won't make it.
Earlier in the war, the hospital was busy, but things appeared manageable. Then came a flood of refugees, as the Israel military, preparing a ground invasion, warned civilians in the north to evacuate.
The other day I found myself next to a doctor who was saying that before the war, the hospital used to cap daily admissions at 700. "Today, on a regular day without shelling, we accept more than 2,000 cases," the doctor said.
Like many hospitals in the Gaza Strip, fuel shortages tied to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade have left Nasser struggling to keep the lights on and the equipment running. Critically needed food and medical supplies are said to be trickling into the territory, but when I ask the staff at Nasser about it, they tell me: "We haven't received anything."