View Full Version : A Very Public Death - Chris Cork - 3rd December 2012

3rd December 2012, 09:24 AM
A man died falling from a building that was on fire last week in Karachi. Not unusual in itself or particularly uncommon in a country where fatal fires are regular and often unremarked.

What was profoundly disturbing about this particular death was the way in which it was covered by some private TV channels that lingered along with spectators, as he clung to the outside of a window.

The camera panned down to catch his last seconds. He fell on to a concrete surface above the main door of the building and died immediately or shortly thereafter. There appears to have been no attempt to create a cushion for him to fall on to.

His name was Owais and he was a teenager who had gone to the building that day to look for a job. He found death instead.

Why disturbing? Disturbing because this should never have made it to our screens. Whoever had editorial control at any of the channels that aired the incident live should have said ‘We do not broadcast this’ – at least not live.

The segment could have been edited for later broadcast, frozen before the young man’s body impacted and some dignity in his tragic end maintained.

But no, that is not the Pakistani way, is it? Ten years ago I recall opening a newspaper here one day and there, front and centre, was perhaps one of the most appalling pictures I have ever seen in a newspaper.

A young boy, not even a teenager, was holding up for the camera the head of a suicide bomber. The eyes were open. The jaw slack. The point of separation from the torso a ragged bloody tear. The boy was smiling broadly.

A couple of weeks later, different paper, the remains of a suicide bomber entangled in the ceiling fan of the mosque where had had detonated himself.

More recently, the decapitated heads of men kidnapped by the Taliban, their murderers standing behind their trophies, axes over their shoulders.

Then remember the reporters wading through human body parts at the site of the AirBlue crash – and telling us about it. Related to the same incident a woman reporter doorstepping the mother of a stewardess who had died in the crash and asking her how she felt about it.

And remember as well a harpy and her TV crew chasing couples through a park in search of ‘immoral behaviour’.Sometimes there is a bit of a fuss, a few commentators will ruminate on what the use of such imagery and the reporting practices says about us.

There are a few days of anguished debate on the op-ed pages of the English press and then it all dies down to be trotted out the next time a producer with an eye to the ratings catches some poor unfortunate in dire straits and splashes their misfortune on to the screen.

Beyond a few well-penned pieces deploring the coverage this is exactly what happened this time – and this piece will be joining the small canon of protest.

The media knows its audience. They know what people like to see. They know that they can, and will, push the envelope of depravity every time because if there is one thing that Pakistan, the teeming masses, rejoices in and celebrates it is blood and death, the carnage of the car bomb or explosive vest.

Poor Owais. He lives on as a YouTube favourite and has achieved what he never expected – immortality.