Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt


ONE picture is worth a thousand words. While I can't give you a clear provenance for that expression, its one we all know: newspapers have lived by it for at least a century.

Sometimes an image can change the world - or, at least, its opinion.

Two examples stand out in my memory. Back in 1972 a startling photo swept the globe (and, indeed, won the photographer a Pulitzer prize). It showed Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl, running from an American napalm attack, burns clearly visible all over her naked body. Public opinion in America, already tired of its young men coming home in body bags, swung against the war which effectively ended, after 20 years' bloodshed, with the fall of Saigon in 1975.

In 1976 the world started to appreciate the evils of South African apartheid when 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot during the Soweto uprising. The photograph of the boy's body carried from the scene, his distraught sister beside him, went global and marked the beginning of the end of support for the racist government by other countries, including the UK. That day, June 16, remains South Africa's National Youth Day.

No prizes for guessing why I'm considering iconic pictures. Last week saw global coverage of a Turkish policeman tenderly carrying the body of drowned threeyear-old refugee Aylan Kurdi from a beach, his little shoes still neatly velcroed and sand sticking to his wet blue trousers.

You don't have to be the parent of a three-year-old to have your heart wrung. Moreover, what petition and protest could not achieve, a single image has.

Almost overnight the language of politicians has changed from the problem of refugees to their needs, from entrenchment to compassion, from building barriers to planning support. Politicians, including our own Prime Minister, will receive little praise. Too little, too late? Governments were too slow to act.

Who's to blame? In our General Election, held four months ago, immigration was a major issue. UKIP, ultimately unsuccessful in the vote, arguably focused public dissatisfaction with the major parties on the issue, though I hate to give credit to a party founded on isolationism and intolerance. …

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