When a Child Is Struck by a Missile, Do You Watch?
Try not to turn away from Sudan’s bloodshed
People often ask journalists why they choose to document wars. Why go there and why broadcast the violence and desperation that come with?
That question is fair and important. War is not a clear-cut, clarifying experience. It can often only be observed from one side and concerns of bias naturally arise. We do our best to show what we think is true with limited perspective. But another can and should be asked of the other side—
“Why do people watch?”
“A Child Struck by a Missile” is a documentation of a death. In the video, a child is killed by forces he cannot comprehend. The images are graphic, and they will almost certainly offend many of the people who choose to watch them.
The video shows a child in South Kordofan almost immediately after being hit by a missile launched by a Sukhoi fighter jet. His body has been shredded by pieces shrapnel and he is in considerable pain. Others struggle in vain to save his life but he dies not long after the camera stops rolling.
The video is hard to watch. It was hard to film. But we feel it is our duty to show you.
Part of Nuba Reports’ mission is to document the conflicts in Sudan for the historical record. International media organizations do visit Sudan to report on occasion but logistical challenges, high costs and bureaucratic run-arounds make these trips infrequent at best.
That is why we exist. It is the job of this organization to record everything possible about this period in Sudan’s history from our particular vantage point.
This includes hunger, displacement and anger as well as community, resilience and small moments of happiness that make up life here. Sadly, death is a very present, very frequent part of it. The deaths we see are not comfortable nor are they dignified. But they happen almost every day and must be recorded.
Nuba Reports journalist Abdu Ibrahim was nearby when this particular bomb hit. According to witnesses, Ibrahim organized the transport to bring the child to a nearby clinic. After, he decided to document the attempt to save the child’s life. The result is this video.
But why show it to the public? Most mainstream news organizations elect not to broadcast such graphic images. Their reasons vary, and the decision making process is complex, but one of the biggest factors is you, the audience.
Many networks do not show this footage because they think it will upset their audience … and they are likely correct. The fact is that most consumers of news have an unconscious, but completely contradictory preference for edited, censored truth.
Mainstream news organizations are in the impossible position of needing to show you important images but knowing you will turn away if it is too challenging. The dilemma flips their responsibilities—from the people they see suffering to you, the audience.
We are under the same pressure here. It essentially requires us to mute certain difficult aspects of this conflict in order to spare the feelings of people thousands of miles away. But on the ground, there is no way to make all of this end.
The other part of our mission is to provide a public view into Sudan’s war zones. It cannot possibly be a complete picture without these images. Bombs fall every day. So many bombs that the numbers lose context. They become data on a spreadsheet.
But each bomb has an impact. People are hurt and killed. Families are destroyed. Children like this are disfigured constantly.
If you cannot bear it through a computer screen, how do you think the people who live it feel?
We have no right to ignore this violence simply because we can’t stand it. That kind of logic would force us to build a picture of the wars in Sudan as almost benign. They are not. And if you want to consider yourself informed about these places, this is part of the information.
Those outside of Sudan have a choice. They can choose to turn away. Nuba Reports is here for anyone who wants another perspective on this country and its conflicts. We do not force this perspective onto anyone.
If you want to see what life is for the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, our videos are free and open. Some show celebrations, some show hardship and many also show death. Before you click on the video above please ask yourself—
“Why are you watching?”