Monday, August 20, 2012

Here's where I stand on the Eid harassment photos

Women were harassed during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Cairo. It's abhorrent and should be stopped. I fully support that. I also fully support spreading harassers' pictures across the globe and calling their mothers AND aunties.

However, it DISGUSTS me that whoever caught these images on camera - of women being harassed, boys grabbing women's behinds, etc - did not bother to blur the victims' faces before spreading the images across the internet. Did it not occur to you that these poor girls' privacy has already been invaded enough? Would you post a picture of your little sister - who looks barely 14 - having BOTH of her breasts grabbed by two different boys behind her? Would you want that picture to go viral? No? Well I've seen that picture floating around tonight.

The argument that it takes too long to blur the faces and it's better to just get the pictures out there is COMPLETELY inexcusable, in my opinion. As a photographer, especially if you're trying to call yourself a photojournalist or a journalist, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to act ethically, and that includes protecting your sources and protecting victims, ESPECIALLY if they're underage. Take the 10 seconds (or 5 minutes) to either blur or black out the victims' faces and/or eyes. Is your five minutes really worth potentially prolonging a young girl's horrifying experience?

I've heard the argument that these images and information should be shared at all costs. I understand the argument, I understand the argument that seeing the shock, horror, violation on the victim's face makes the image more powerful.

But ethically, it's still wrong. Imagine being that 14-year-old girl. Now imagine if one of your classmates (or cousins) stumbles upon that picture. You already know how prevalent sexual harassment is in Egyptian society AND how often women are blamed for it. Do you think her classmates will support her? Or will they snigger behind her back? Now: do you really think spreading that girl's face was worth it?

I understand that there is a fine line there, especially when people are whole-heartedly, and with good intentions, trying to support something so essential as ending sexual harassment. But unless the victim has given permission, it is just further violation of their privacy.

Some people will disagree with me, either for the reasons above or for other reasons. I get that. It's your right.

But please, have some respect.

Edit: If these girls want to tell their stories, more power to them - but the choice should be theirs. It shouldn't be made without their knowledge or consent.

Video: 'Fix You' - HanyMust & Hana Malhas live at Sakia

Cover of Coldplay's 'Fix You' by Cairo's own Hany Mustafa, joined on stage by Jordanian singer Hana Malhas at El-Sawy Culture Wheel. August 10, 2012.

Video by Sallie Pisch Photography. All rights reserved.

Hana Malhas: