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Powerful images

Ben Rich | 10:02 UK time, Thursday, 7 February 2008

It was about four o’clock on Monday afternoon that we were told that a second suicide bomber had been involved in the attack in Dimona in Israel, and that he had been shot by the police before he could detonate his device. We were also told that the shooting had been filmed and the pictures were on their way in.

BBC Six O'Clock News logoWe have a pretty firm rule about these things, especially at six o'clock in the evening. We do not show someone actually being killed. So we had to decide how much of the incident could be included in the piece.

In the end we used the pictures up to the moment the police officer fired his gun at the bomber lying on the ground, then froze it but carried on the sound of the shots over it. We did not then show the scene after the shooting finished.

Israeli policeman at the scene of a suicide bombing in Dimona, IsraelSome would argue that none of it should have been used. But we were trying to tell the important story of the first suicide bomb in Israel for over a year, and to give some sense of how Israel was likely to react to it.

This sequence showing the chaos and fear of a suburban shopping centre in the aftermath of an atrocity of this kind is as powerful an illustration as you could possibly have of what it means to live under the shadow of suicide bombers.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Middle East situation, these events can drive change or prevent it. And it's our job to show them as directly and powerfully as we can.


I found the footage, which did seem to get shown in full later on and on other channels, quite shocking. But then, it's a shocking event, and whilst it was uncomfortable to watch someone being shot dead, it's clearly an important story and felt that it was right to be shocked by it.

Sometimes news event are uncomfortable, but this doesn't mean we should be protected from them. (Of couse, shocking for the sake of it would be bad.)

  • 2.
  • At 03:20 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • keith finglas wrote:


BBC NEWS should explain to the viewers how Israel rules Gaza and the west bank and the rules for entering and leaving those territories like

The effects of the occupation are not only felt during attacks such as those in Ramallah. Palestinians must also contend with the day-to-day control over freedom of movement. During curfews people live under a form of house arrest. Without notice they can be locked inside their homes. Their ordinary lives are a maze of controls, road blocks, checkpoints.

  • 3.
  • At 09:57 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • DavidW wrote:

I think your handling of the footage was sensitive and appropriate, for once. I'm more trouble by the way the attack was described on the website. First, it was a "rare" suicide bombing (like a hurricane perhaps) - I'd like to have seen you try to describe 7/7 in such terms. Then you changed it to a bland "Israeli killed in suicide attack". Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to headline it as "Palestinian suicide bombers kill one Israeli", which would at least match your reporting of Israeli attacks on Gaza (eg "Israeli attack kills nine in Gaza"). Time and again your reports fail to identify the attackers when they are Palestinian. I'm afraid I just don't get it - can someone at the BBC please explain?

It's interesting that the BBC takes a completely different approach to showing somebody being killed than it does to somebody glorifying their acts of murder, such as Cho Seung-Hui who was shown on BBC News glorifying his killing of Virginia Tech students. Some find the glorification of killing disturbing.

  • 5.
  • At 11:40 PM on 07 Feb 2008,
  • Steven wrote:

I think we've become pretty desensitized to this sort of thing now.

I am generally against censoring this sort of thing, especially when the violence is a result of warfare. People need to be able to see the carnage of war in order to make informed judgements about it. Governments often go to some lengths to prevent the public seeing these things.

For example, during the final assault on Fallujah, US troops took control of the hospital to prevent any pictures of the bombed civilians being broadcast.

  • 6.
  • At 02:06 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Keith Granger wrote:

Dear Ben Rich

Whilst showing the pictures are more of a personal taste issue for me than anything else, the comments about "trying to tell the important story ... and to give some sense of how Israel was likely to react to it." are not so simple.

Is it that without those pictures the BBC would not have tried?

  • 7.
  • At 02:21 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Katie wrote:

I see no reason why shocking images should not be shown (with due sensitivity to the watershed.) The fact is, war is gruesome. War is scary. Having a 'head in the sand' approach will not aid anyone. The fact is, sadly, killings such as this one are part of the world we live in, therefore should be included in the news.

After the watershed we should see and know all that goes on so we know what it is really like on the ground and maybe this will incentivise people to do something about what is going on rather then watch while eating a yogurt and then forgetting about it to watch Eastenders again.
If it happens BBC SHOW IT.

  • 9.
  • At 05:47 PM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Ron wrote:

If it's real, than it should be shown otherwise what is the point of all this technology if we can't even report the truth, however horrible/appalling it may be!

  • 10.
  • At 10:35 PM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Claire Dawson wrote:

Although this was an important piece of news this shooting should not have been described in such graphic detail whilst young children could have been watching the news. There is a watershed for a reason and I hate to think of the children that may have accidentally witnessed this news item and been disturbed by it. It was disturbing enough for us adults. Perhaps the BBC should not assume in future that everyone who views the 6 o'clock news has been desensitised and keep this sort of thing for 10.

  • 11.
  • At 12:05 AM on 11 Feb 2008,
  • Michael wrote:

It is unfortunately inevitable that we will be exposed to more and more of this kind of scene. Not because it happens more often, but because in this time of cell phone cams and instant DIY reporting, we have end up participating in more int'l rubbernecking than ever. We do not need to get stuck in a traffic jam to view the carnage, just switch on our computers or watch the box. The downside is perhaps that we all become a little numb to it all and with the assistance from carnage strewn computer games and movies, more passively accepting of it.

I don't think graphic images of people being killed should be shown at any point in the news but unfortunately this seems to be the way that most european countries seem to broadcast it(Euronews is a prime example of this type of journalism).

I hope the BBC never bows to this although I do remember seeing a very distrubing image from one of your news broadcasts around december time of a soldier totally engulfed in flames which I thought was unacceptable but it was done in a blink and you'll miss it type of way.

  • 13.
  • At 02:58 PM on 11 Feb 2008,
  • Acco,South Africa wrote:

I don`t think its wrong to show these horrible pictures to the people though sensitive.What the UN do about this of state of things of in Israel?.

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