Controversial News Images

Denty Piawai Nastitie
5 min readJun 22, 2020

The National Press Photographers Association acknowledges concern for every person’s need both to be fully informed about public events and to be recognized as part of the world in which we live. Photographic can reveal great truths, but it can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.

Visual journalists role is to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. However, how the images are displayed sometimes goes too far. Photography that is considered violate the code of etchis mostly is photo stagging, photo settings, and manipulation images using technology advance.

Furthermore, the violation can also in the narrative. However, probably there is no problem with the pictures, but the meaning of the picture change because of the text . John Berger said, photographs always need language, and require a narrative, to make sense.

Sometimes photojournalists also look for sensations. In reporting news, the impact on the subject of photographs is often neglected. These are some pictures that took public attention in Indonesia. Some of them are considered as controversial because it’s impact on the society.

The most common ethical violation is hoax news. The photo shows people lying on the road. The hoax maker makes the narrative as if the people in the photo are people with positive Covid-19. In fact, the photo is completely unrelated to the corona virus crisis. This photo belongs to Reuters international news agency, located in Frankfurt, Germany, and was taken in 2014. People in the picture arranged lying down randomly on the streets as part of an art project to commemorate the casualties of fighting in the Katzbach concentration camp, Frankfurt in 1813. Hoaxes are sometimes not made in the picture, but through the narative that accompanies the photo publishing.

Jawa Pos Daily, Thursday, February 27, 2014, on page 16 published news about sexual harassment experienced by a number of children at the “The Samuel Home” Orphanage, Jakarta. In the newspaper, Jawa Pos carried a large photo that showed very clearly three of the victims when they were getting down the car that took them to the Metro Jaya Regional Police Office. The faces of the three were clearly visible, nothing was obscured at all. This photo is considered to violate ethics because it shows the faces of children victims who experienced sexual harrasment.

News in Pos Kota revolves around of themes such as rape, incest, theft, and murder. The various news stories were written with detailed descriptions as can be seen also from titles such as “Asharudin Killed by His Own Nephew”, “Bodies with a Neck Cut on the Side of the Road”, “Dying with a Knife on the Neck”. The article is often accompanied by pictures of the violence victims.

In 2009, The Press Council of Indonesia gave a warning to media that violates the code of ethics in the coverage of Enno Parihah. Enno, a 19 years old girl, was brutally murdered in an employee housing in Tangerang on Thursday night, May 14, 2016. The Tangerang District Court rendered death penalty to two suspects of Eno Farihah murder case.

In 2009, The Press Council of Indonesia was angry at the media displaying pictures of the bombing bleeding victims at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. The media and journalists are considered to have violated journalistic code of ethics. Press Council member Abdullah Alammudi once said that pictures that displaying blood and wounds must be obscured.

Photograph by TEMPO/Dhemas Reviyanto Atmodjo

Adian Napitupulu once joined a demonstration with thousands of other students in the prosecution so that Suharto stepped down from his position as President of Indonesia.Aafter 20 years have passed, Napitupulu became a member of Parliament. In the picture, Napitupulu, who is PDIP faction member, was found asleep in the Plenary Session Meeting held, Tuesday (4/11/2014). After the picture was published, Naputupulu reported Tempo to the Press Council. According to Napitupulu, the coverage of Tempo which contained a picture of him closing his eyes was judgmental and unbalanced. He considered Tempo to mix facts and opinions that were judging.

Photograph by Media Indonesia/M Irfan

Member of Parliament from the PKS faction, Arifinto was captured by Media Indonesia photographer watching a porn video during the plenary session (3/4/2011). This picture became controversial since PKS is known as an Islam-based political party in Indonesia. The party has a deeply religious ideology to liberalize and entertain democracy. Although Arifinto denied that he watched porn movie during the plenary session at the first time, Arifinto later resigned because of the less commendable action.

Photography by KOMPAS/Agus Susanto

Gayus, whose full name is Gayus Halomoan Partahanan Tambunan, was convicted of accepting a $3.5 million bribe from several companies to help them shrink their tax bills in 2010. He was also found guilty of bribing a National Police investigator and a Tangerang District Court chairman. Additionally, he was proven guilty of providing a false testimony on the origins of Rp 28 billion ($1.9 million) found in his bank accounts through a fictitious letter of agreement, and ordered to serve another eight years in jail . In 2010, Agus Susanto took pictures of Gayus watching a tennis match in Bali when he was supposed to be at a detention center awaiting trial for corruption. After the picture was published in Kompas daily, Gayus finally claimed as a person in the picture who watched tennis in Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions at the Westin Nusa Dua Hotel, Bali.

Arifin rubbed his head to show his disappointment with the The Corruption Eradication Commission of Indonesia which considered cannot eradicate corruption in the country. This picture is controversial since many media displayed Arifin’s action without considering Article 4 Journalistic Code of Ethics which mentions “Indonesian journalists do not make false, slanderous, sadistic and obscene news”.

— Denty Piawai Nastitie —

A journalist of Kompas daily, Indonesia.

Student of Diploma in Visual Journalism — The Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University.