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The New York Times Published A Graphic Photo Of Victims In The Nairobi Hotel Attack And Kenyans Are Furious

“Some of the images in this article are GRUESOME!”

Last updated on January 17, 2019, at 7:33 a.m. ET

Posted on January 16, 2019, at 1:09 p.m. ET

Baz Ratner / Reuters

People in Kenya are angry at the New York Times for publishing a graphic photo of victims in the Nairobi hotel complex attack, in which 14 people died.

The photo, which was distributed by the Associated Press news agency, showed two victims with multiple bullet wounds slumped over their tables in a restaurant.

Including the photo, which did not come with a graphic image warning, has been called “distasteful, disgusting and deplorable,” and was a major talking point on Twitter in Kenya on Wednesday.

Very disturbing images published by @GettyImages, accredited to @kabirdhanji, from the Riverside/Dusit incident. Others posted by @nytimes attributed to Khalil Senosi (for @AP) in an article by @kimidefreytas. Absolutely distasteful, disgusting and deplorable. An utter disgrace.

Some of the images in this article are GRUESOME! That's terribly unprofessional, irresponsible and downright inhumane, not the kind of thing I expect of a big media house like @nytimes! #RiversideAttack #RiversidedriveAttack https://t.co/TBpRfh2qr3

@nytimes We are complaining about the one showing dead people. It is insensitive & does not add value to the story. The only purpose is to glorify a Terrorist bullet. Unfortunately, by an outlet we consider to be a global example of fine journalism. Show pictures of human triumph!

@LarryMadowo The @nytimes offices in Nairobi should be shut down or relocated to Somalia or just shut down completely. How can NYT publish such images! This is unacceptable #KenyaAttack

This photo is so powerful ,how i wish New York Times used it to publish #deportkimiko #KenyaAttack

In the wake of the criticism the media council of Kenya called for the NYT to make a formal apology and remove the photographs from the article (as of Jan. 17 the images were still live in the piece online).

In a letter to the NYT, chief executive David Omwoyo Omwoyo said the publication's choice of photographs was in "bad taste, disrespectful to the victims...in addition to being unprofessional."

@mediacouncilk today officially wrote a protest note to @nytimes over it's coverage of #riversideattack

Should the images not be removed, the letter continued, the accreditation for the NYT correspondent in Kenya could be revoked.

At one point, people believed an account with the handle @NYTPHOTO had been suspended as a result of the criticism, but this is not an official Times account, and was in fact suspended years ago.

In response to the online criticism, the Times issued a statement addressing the controversy and defending the use of the picture.

“We understand how painful this coverage can be, and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images in these situations,” the statement said.

“But we also believe it is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this. This includes showing pictures that are not sensationalized but that give a real sense of the situation.”

We have heard from some readers upset with our publishing a photo showing victims after a brutal attack in Nairobi. We understand how painful this coverage can be, and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images in these situations. https://t.co/Qjm0qBMaF3

But the statement was met with a negative response, and a lot of people began sharing an op-ed published from the Times in August 2018 about publishing images of dead bodies.

“if the refusal to publish images of dead American service members is a sign of respect, then the willingness to publish photographs of other people’s dead bodies can be read as a sign of disrespect” - ⁦@nytimes⁩ It is intentional. https://t.co/5mNtdiCAci

The Times has published photos of shooting victims in the US, such as in the Las Vegas shooting from 2017.

A lot of people in Kenya also focused their criticism on Times reporter Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, who had the only byline on the article with the gruesome photo. In a series of tweets, she directed people to the Times photo desk, as she had no influence over the images used to illustrate the piece.

As criticism around the coverage intensified, there was also a hashtag calling for de Freytas-Tamura to be deported.

BBC Africa business editor Larry Madowo also criticized the Times for focusing on the fact that the complex that came under attack housed foreign companies.

This complex probably has more Kenyan companies than foreign ones. And it is in poor taste for the New York Times to publish images of the dead https://t.co/V9JXarLeaq

Kenyans are criticizing German tabloid Bild for its coverage as well, which also published graphic photographs of the victims.

As in... Seriously? I thought @nytimes howler on #RiversideAttack #Nairobi #NairobiAttack was enough? Now @BILD is publishing a totally unacceptable photo from the scene. Please take it down!! All. Our. Lives. Matter!!

Unprofessional and shameful reporting by @BILD. Posting images of dead victims on Nairobi Attack. You need to bring down those images. https://t.co/4RgGiexO02

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Bild for comment.

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