As former executive director for a national nonprofit journalism association in the U.S., I know the great honor a Pulitzer Prize brings to a reporter, photographer or newspaper. It’s the Oscar or even the Nobel Prize for journalism.
But to my great disappointment, this year’s Pulitzer for Breaking News Photography was awarded to a New York Times story on alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, presumably part of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
I do not question the artistic value of the photographs. I question their journalistic integrity.
To document scenes of dead bodies in the streets of Manila or of grieving families and editorially label them as “callous disregard for human life” speaks of the utter lack of understanding of what’s going on in “ground zero.”
One can photograph as many dead bodies, but without concrete evidence that all were state-sponsored or even drug-related, the images do nothing but support a fairy tale.
In case you haven’t noticed, most if not all reports, photographs and videos come “after the fact,” that is after the shooting has occurred, and after a cardboard with the hand-written inscription,”I am a drug pusher,” has been neatly laid out over the cadavers.
What I would consider a Pulitzer-worthy photograph or video is one where the actual moment of shooting is documented: one that shows a suspect with hands raised in surrender and still shot and killed by law enforcement personnel. But absent that, how can any killing be labeled “summary killing,” “state-sponsored” or “drug-related” even before any official investigation has commenced?
This photo of the assassination of a Russian Ambassador comes to mind:
In fact, there is no evidence that the alleged “summary killings” as described by the news media and international human rights organizations are the direct result of Duterte’s war on drugs.
Just like an Easter Egg Hunt, one has to consciously go find the eggs to put in the basket. It doesn’t matter whether it is one egg or 50 eggs. That’s how reporters and photographers find the “prize.” But when the reporters or photographs don’t tell the truth, then the prize is worthless. It’s just fairy tale.