NEW YORK — A New York City subway rider was pushed onto the tracks and photographed while he was still alive. The photograph was an image of desperation that sparked a lot of criticism after it appeared on the front page of the New York Post.
According toThe Wall Street Journal, emotional questions started to rise only a day after Ki-Suck Han was hit by a subway train. The questions were over the photograph of the helpless man standing helpless in-front of the oncoming train at the Times Square station.
Kenny Irby, an expert in the ethics of visual journalism at the Poynter Institute said that the moral issue among professional journalists, when it comes to this type of situation, is “to document or assist.”
Irby said that professional photographers are often face faced with that decision seconds before a fatality.
Irby spoke to The Associated Press the day after the newspaper published the photograph of Han looking at the train while desperately trying to climb off the tracks in time.
The photograph was shot for the Post by freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi.
“I’m sorry. Somebody’s on the tracks. That’s not going to help,” said Al Roker on NBC’s Today show as the photo was displayed.
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien tweeted: “I think it’s terribly disturbing — imagine if that were your father or brother.”
Larry King also turned to Twitter and asked his followers: “Did the (at)nypost go too far?”
The biggest question on everyone’s mind was: “Why didn’t Abbasi help Han?”
Irby, however, said that it wasn’t that simple. He said:
“What was done was not necessarily unethical. It depends on the individual at the time of action.”
He continued to say that “it depends on the individual at the time of action.”
It depends on whether the photographer was strong enough to lift the man, or if they were close enough to the individual to make a difference.
According to The Post, Abbasi defended himself by saying that he got the shot while running to the scene and firing off his camera’s flash in order to gain the attention of the train conductor.
“So there was an attempt to help,” said Irby. Irby blames the editors at the The Post for all of the recent controversy, since they were the ones that decided to display the photograph.
The editors didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Another professional photographer, who was reluctant to judge Abassi, was veteran photographer John Long of the National Press Photographers Association. He said:
“I cannot judge the man. I don’t know how far away he was; I don’t know if he could’ve done anything.”
Both Long and Irby did say. however, that as a photographer, “you are morally obliged to help” if possible. Irby continued by saying, “I would argue that you’re a human being before you’re a journalist.”
Paul Browne, a New York Police Department spokesman, said that investigators have recovered security video that shows a man fitting the description of the assailant working with street vendors near Rockefeller Center.
Witnesses told investigators that they saw the suspect talking to himself before approaching Han. The suspenct then got into an altercation with Han and pushed him into the train’s path.
Police took the man into custody on Tuesday. However, the suspect has yet to be charged with anything.
Han, of Queens, died shortly after being hit on the tracks.
Police said that Han attempted to climb to safety but got trapped between the train and the platform’s edge.
Han was 58 years old.