By Josh Halliday/ The Guardian –
The editor of the Independent on Sunday has defended his decision to publish graphic pictures of dead Syrian children killed in the Houla region on Friday.
John Mullin said he had a responsibility to use the harrowing images – which appear to show the badly beaten bodies of at least nine dead children laid side by side – despite strict Press Complaints Commission (PCC) guidance on the potential intrusion into grief and shock.
“They [the pictures] were of such awful proportion that they spoke not just 1,000 words, but 2,000 words, 10,000 words and I wanted immediately to use them; I felt we had a responsibility to use them in fact,” Mullin told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme on Monday.
Mullin said it was almost unprecedented for several national newspapers – including the Independent on Sunday and later editions of the Observer and Mail on Sunday – to publish such disturbing images. The PCC said it had received only one complaint about the pictures as published by the Mail on Sunday.
The Independent on Sunday editor said he printed the pictures on page three rather than on the front page to avoid distressing children. The paper carried the front-page headline “Syria. The world looks the other way. Will you?” over the standfirst: “More than 90 people were massacred in Houla late on Friday, 32 of them children under the age of 10. Many had their throats cut. To convey the full horror, we publish a shocking image of the defenceless victims on page three […]”.
Mullin said when he first saw the pictures he knew they were a “game changer” and would pressure the United Nations to intervene in the Syrian conflict.
“The whole point about these pictures is that they are a challenge to the international community and I wanted to make them as well a challenge to our readers,” he added.
“I think the footage on YouTube and these pictures has clearly had a major impact and galvanised the international community.”
The PCC advises editors to handle sensitively images that can intrude into grief or shock.