PART EIGHT IN A SERIES OF POSTS DISCUSSING PHOTOGRAPHERS’ ACTIONS AND RESPONSES TO THE KILLING OF FABIENNE CHERISMA IN PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI ON THE 19TH JANUARY 2010.

Michael Winiarski is the US correspondent for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and colleague of photographer Paul Hansen (interviewed in part seven).

Osama Cherisma carries Fabienne's body down Boulevard Jean Jacques Dessaline, followed by his son, Jeff (18) and his daughter, Amanda (13). Photo: Paul Hansen

What were the dates of your stay in Haiti?
I arrived to Port-au-Prince in the morning of January 14th. I flew in from Washington (where I’m posted as correspondent for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter) through Santo Domingo. I left Haiti late on January 21st, by car to Dominican Republic.

Fabienne was shot at approximately 4pm. What had you reported on earlier that day?
Actually about the deteriorating security situation and looting in central Port-au-Prince.

Did you see Fabienne get shot?
No, I was by the car at Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines when our driver came and told me that a girl had been shot. When I saw her she lay in the street.

How long was it until her family and father arrived to carry away Fabienne’s corpse?
When I saw her, the father was already there. I checked my watch which was exactly 16.00pm, so I assume she was shot at least 10-15 minutes earlier.

How many other journalists/photographers did you see at the scene? Do you know the names of these other media people?
Apart from Paul Hansen from Dagens Nyheter, I saw the Danish photographer Jan Grarup and the Reuters and AFP guys. I think I was the only foreign writer/reporter, and there also was a Haitian man who volunteered with translating some things the father said.

How was the atmosphere? How did others behave?
It was of course tense, with lot of crying, screaming and lamenting as we followed the crowd to the house of the Cherisma family. But the immediate threat of more shootings had subsided – no police were to be seen around us.

Did you discuss the tragedy with Paul or other journalists?
At that point only with Paul, and we did not hesitate that we should report the story.

Any other thoughts?
In Sweden, there were ethics discussions about Fabienne [and the photographs] by magazines and bloggers.

SWEDISH MEDIA DISCUSS THE ETHICS OF PUBLISHING PAUL HANSEN’S IMAGE OF FABIENNE

So upsetting is the photograph of a dead young girl, that Swedish magazines and bloggers responded to and questioned it’s use for Winiarski’s article (Swedish original / English translation).

The article humanised Fabienne and communicated the injustice and immediate devastation her death caused. It ends with a description of the family’s grief:

Fabienne’s little sister, Samantha, runs adjacent to [her father who carries Fabienne’s dead body] and roars in grief. It is only later Osama Cherisma will completely absorb what has happened. Then he will sit down and stare blankly ahead. But now he cries curses at the police who he believes took aim at his daughter.

We follow the weeping and despaired small group down the street, through the business district, to Fabienne’s home. It is only here when Fabienne’s mother Amante Kelcy hear what has happened to her girl. She falls apart in a crying, “Why? “Why? Why?”

Ever since the shot, the police are not to be seen. No police dare to enter these streets after a member of its rank and file killed one of the neighborhood children. No ambulance will be summoned. There is still no one to send. And Fabienne is already dead. Unnecessarily.

Osama Cherisma curses the police. “They are like animals, they are animals, “he says. “Why should my daughter pulled away in the prime of their youth?”

Fabienne's younger sister, Amanda Cherisma (13) and older brother, Jeff Cherisma (18) over the body of their sister. Photo: Paul Hansen

Dagens Nyheter, to its credit, acknowledged the concerns and answered them directly in an editorial. I paraphrase due to the vagaries of translation:

We are obviously very reluctant to publish pictures of the deceased.  A reader emailed and questioned how we would handle the issue if the image depicted a fifteen year old girl in Sweden. The answer is that the situation in Sweden is not comparable – if Sweden were affected by a disaster of equal scale of that in Haiti, then publication discussions would be based on the circumstances of that event.

How families are affected by publication is another important issue to consider in the decision.

DN’s mission is to take the world closer to readers, even when reporting can bring discomfort. Michael Winiarski’s and Paul Hansen’s reporting in connection with this individual tragedy is strong and worthy – and not at all speculative. In our view, it’s publication was important.

The statement above can be construed as a standard media response – that while Dagens Nyheter is aware of the distress Hansen’s photographs may cause it readers AND the deceased’s family, it goes ahead with publication in the interests of information.

Respect is given in that the need for respect is articulated. Is this enough?

I remain a little uneasy. The photographers I’ve interviewed for this series have given their opinions, but still I wonder what Fabienne’s family actually think – especially eight weeks later – of the international coverage of Fabienne’s death.

– – –

ALSO IN THE ‘PHOTOGRAPHING FABIENNE’ SERIES

Part One: Fabienne Cherisma (Initial inquiries, Jan Grarup, Olivier Laban Mattei)
Part Two: More on Fabienne Cherisma (Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
Part Three: Furthermore on Fabienne Cherisma (Michael Mullady)
Part Four: Yet more on Fabienne Cherisma (Linsmier, Nathan Weber)
Part Five: Interview with Edward Linsmier
Part Six: Interview with Jan Grarup
Part Seven: Interview with Paul Hansen

Part Nine: Interview with Nathan Weber
Part Ten: Interview with James Oatway
Part Eleven: Interview with Nick Kozak
Part Twelve: Two Months On (Winiarski/Hansen)
Reporter Rory Carroll Clarifies Some Details
Part Fourteen: Interview with Alon Skuy
Part Fifteen: Conclusions

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