NEW YORK (AP) – CBS News reporter Deborah Pata covered the conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Europe. She had previously seen violence and death at close range. But she witnessed atrocities in BuchaUkraine stood out this week and overwhelmed it.
“We should be concerned about these photos,” Patta told CBS Mornings, describing the fact that she and other journalists witnessed on the outskirts of Kiev.
The war changed this week in terms of the media, which is what most people outside of Ukraine are going through.
Previously, the events were seen primarily from a short distance – fire explosions, which are recorded on camera, or types of drones on burned buildings. Now that the Ukrainian army is regaining control of villages near Kiev that were severely insulted by Russian soldiersjournalists record the consequences of horrific violence at close range – dead bodies were tied up, tortured and burned.
While there is a sense that such images could change public opinion or affect how war unfolds, historically this has not been the case often, said Rebecca Adelman, a professor of communications at the University of Maryland who specializes in war and media.
However, several countries, including the United States and Britain, imposed additional sanctions on Russia this week.and they referred to the brutality in Bucha as something that makes them do more.
Regardless of the impact, Adelman said it is important to have journalists on hand to document what is happening. “The witness is very important, especially in cases of catastrophic loss,” she said. “Sometimes a photo is all you have left.”
Photos and videos from Bucha show bags of corpses littered with trenches, lifeless limbs sticking out of hastily excavated graves, and corpses scattered through the streets where they fell, including one person being knocked off a bicycle.
Journalists from around the world also interviewed Ukrainians coming out of their hiding places to tell stories of the barbarism they witnessed by Russian soldiers.
TV presenters and reporters warned viewers that they were about to see vivid and disturbing pictures – a warning that was given four times in one of the episodes of “World News Tonight” on ABC. “I’m sorry I have to show you this,” CNN’s Frederick Plaitgen apologized before pointing to the camera to show the bags of corpses stacked in the van.
“While we want to look away, it’s getting harder and harder to close our eyes to what’s going on,” NBC Night News presenter Lester Holt said in his warning to viewers.
Veteran television news producer Rick Kaplan said that, from what he saw, news organizations were cautious in what they showed without dismissing the story.
“Every day we have these images that bring (the war) home more and more,” said Kaplan, former president of CNN and MSNBC. “It’s good that it terrifies us. Can you imagine if we were ugly? ”
Horrific images from Bucha, in particular, dominated the news around the world.
The BBC reported the continuation of “global disgust”. Italian state television did not warn before showing the bodies with their hands tied, half buried in the sandy terrain. “What you see from here, unfortunately, are signs of torture on the face,” said journalist Stephanie Battini. “Everyone in civilian clothes.”
Speaking on Fakty, the most popular evening news program in Poland, host Grzegorz Kaidanowicz said that “it is our duty to warn you, but also to show what the Russians were doing in Bucha and a number of other places.”
It was different in Russia, where state television falsely claimed that Ukraine was responsible either for the killings of civilians or for fraud. Russian television has also published images of corpses in Bucha, some of which were taken from CNN, with the word “fake” on the screen, according to the Internet Archive, a company that monitors web and television content.
Russian propaganda prompted many Western news organizations to refute the allegations, using satellite imagery to show that many of the corpses documented on the ground this week by journalists were in the same places when Russia controlled the city.
Some of the brightest images were collected in a short video taken by Ukraine accompanied by a speech by President Vladimir Zelensky at the United Nations on Tuesday. Under the soundtrack of gloomy music and screams of children on video showed close-ups of corpses and body parts.
Technical difficulties delayed its broadcast until Zelensky spoke, giving networks such as CNN and Fox News Channel, which broadcast the time of the speech, to present it later in an edited form. But MSNBC seemed to show it completely, leaving presenter Andrea Mitchell visibly shocked.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “I don’t think the world has seen anything like it.”
Ukraine has a clear motivation to show the world what is happening, and journalists accompanied Zelensky on Monday with a visit to Bucha.
Although television and the Internet provide more direct coverage of the war, mental images – and their potential for shaping public opinion – are unlikely to be new.
Harvard historian Drew Faust, author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, noted that when Matthew Brady exhibited his photographs of the Civil War in 1862, The New York Times wrote, “If he didn’t bring the body and put it down.” them in our backyards and along the streets, he did something very similar. ”
When a memorable photo of a 5-year-old boy sitting stunned and bloodied after he was rescued from the bombing of Aleppo, Syria in 2016 was circulated, the NPR asked in the headline, “Can one photo help end the war?”
It hasn’t been yet.
The danger is also that in a world that is not so easy to shock, people are numb from paintings. This fears Faust, especially when she expressed surprise that many people have surprisingly disconnected from the news of so many people dying from COVID-19.
As more communities are liberated from Russian rule, the number of horrific images will almost certainly increase.
“In the future, it will take a little care that every news program does not turn into a parade of horrible images,” said retired news consultant and head of NBC News Bill Whitley.
However, one of the surprises of this war, along with Ukraine’s ability to prevent a quick defeat, is how Zelensky was able to win the information battle and unite the opposition in an unforeseen way. In this context, images can help make a difference.
Associated Press correspondents Colin Barry in Milan, Italy; Louise Dixon in London; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; and Amanda Zaitz of Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.