“NO” for the publication of refugee’s image

Statement of the staff of Przystanek “Świetlica” for refugee children.

As workers of Przystanek “Świetlica”, who work with refugees every day, we would like to put the spotlight on a media phenomenon that is deeply concerning for us. We know that some organizations and innitiatives put out their beneficiaries’ image (meaning faces) on social media etc. Our policy strictly forbids that – except for the instance when we recieve a fully concious consent from the person, after talking to the about possible consequences of their face being published on the internet.

The risks that stop us from publishing pictures that allow to identify the person are:

– being looked for by their country of origin’s officials or different people that were once their persecutors and which they run away from,

– being looked for by their local diaspora, that she might not want to be identified by,

– beeing looked for by people involved in criminal activities (ex. smugglers, who are expecting payments),

Above all, we highly value the safety culture and a culture of high respect for privacy. We understand that internet algorythms, just like humans’ eyes tend to like looking for faces. But we appeal to all organisations and innitiative to think whether stripping their refugee beneficiaries of anonymity is the right thing to do. There are different ways of showing our work: pictures of backs, half-profiles taken from behind the person, covering them with drawings or even emojis. Faces are attractive, buy doesn’t the danger that comes with their publication outweight the benefits of more followers?

Keeping beneficiaries anonymous is before all just respect. We shouldn’t, especially as entities specializing in help for them, use their tragedy to arouse more sympathy among our recipients. Taking pictures usually crosses some barrier and shows the true impact of the uneven dynamic between refugees and organisation’s workers. Even if they agree to the picture being taken, they might still have an internal coersion to do it – because they might be scared help will be taken away from them or that they should somehow pay back for the help that has been given to them. The “Afghan girl” was pictured under the author’s persuasions, and she showed her face to a strager man only after more requests. The photographer allegedly told her that this is how he’ll “show her story” to the world, and right after that he manipulated the story in a way to profit more off of the girl’s tragedy and looks – not giving her any of the money made.

Our message is simple: refugees are more than crying faces on our screens. Let’s not put them in dangerous, uncomfortable positions and use them as objects for the bettering of our social media performances or own well-being.

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