First Person: Donna Simpson - Taste and dignity were casualties of this killing

Donna Simpson
Donna Simpson
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I went to bed feeling a bit sick when news of Gaddafi’s death emerged, writes Donna Simpson.

The news that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed was not shocking, or surprising. I never expected an alive and well Gaddafi to be handed over to face trial, and, like most people, knew if he was captured there would be no mercy.

What left me nauseated was the news coverage.

On the Thursday night, we were shown a video of a bloodied body being dragged through the streets of Sirte, half stripped, and then bundled into the back of a van.

There are still disputes over how he was killed, but whatever the truth, there was more than enough information there to let people watching the news know what was important - Gaddafi was dead.

But, we were shown the footage anyway.

Come the Friday morning breakfast news programmes refused to show the front pages of the day’s newspapers, to protect viewers. A good move, but ultimately, the photographs could easily be seen on every single news stand in the UK.

Almost every national newspaper had the bloody photographs on their front page, and more inside. For all to see - proof Gaddafi was dead.

There is no dispute whether or not Gaddafi was a bad person. A tyrant, dictator, horrendous leader who told his troops to use rape as a weapon, and who ruled his people under threats of murder, violence and slavery every single day.

His dictatorship has come to an end, and that is a good thing - yes, indeed, something to be celebrated.

As someone who has never lived in such circumstances, it is impossible to judge the Libyan people for their actions surrounding his death.

And, just as people flocked to take photographs of Mussolini as he was hung, people wanted to record the moment this man was captured - dead or alive.

However, there is something quite sickening about the way the rest of the world - or rather, politicians and media - have treated this man’s death.

We wanted to know that there was an end to Gaddafi’s regime. What we did not need was a feeding frenzy on the gruesome close-ups of his body.

Next to the pick ‘n’ mix, there were full sized photographs of a bloody and mangled corpse on the front pages.

Is this the way we are headed? Public executions once more and bodies paraded so children can see them on their way to school? Or has death just become less taboo in our society?

As journalists, we are always saying justice must be seen to be done. That is why we sit in court; why we cover stories on crime.

But is that why Gaddafi was splashed across every front page?

If these images were not shown, would the world believe he was dead?

Or maybe editors were trying to teach us something about the barbaric nature of war? But if that was the case, surely we would have learned from those photographs of Mussolini, for example.

As a country that continuously gets involved in war, do we now have to expect part of that is to be shown brutality in such detail? Or would censorship just ruin what journalists fight for constantly?

We fight to hide nudity or violence on television before 9.00 p.m., but we can easily have photos of a dead body in the middle of our shops, all day long.

To me, it’s nothing to do with censorship, or the ability to be able to obtain or print these pictures, but taste, and yes, dignity. Not his, but our own.

* Donna Simpson writes for the Fife Free Press