Why Kevin Carter was ethical despite backlash


Even though U.S publications had a negative reaction to Kevin Carter’s photo, what he did was ethical in hindsight.

According to the NPPA Code of Ethics, visual journalists should:

  1. Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.
  2. Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.
  3. Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.
  4. Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.


Carter did not touch the girl and move her in order to leave himself outside of the story. The National Press Photographer’s Association is a U.S founded organization, established in 1946. For people, who aren’t journalists, to criticize him for taking the photo is telling him he shouldn’t have done his job.

Blaming him for the photography would not be appropriate. Journalists, according to the Society of Professional Journalists, are to seek the truth and report it. Carter did, and opened up a dialogue about the famine in Sudan all the way back to the United States.

“That image is captured for eternity. There were, ideally, lots of other people to give aid, medicines, care, but nobody is going to replace the role of the journalist. The military, the aid workers, the Red Cross–no one filled the role Kevin Carter did. He was the one who got the message out to the rest of the world.”  -Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

It is important to note, that journalists covering conflict carry with them their job assignments even after their job is over. For Carter, the commentary around doing his job led to harder things. Between winning the prize and his death, Carter was said to being to start abusing drugs and alcohol after his breakup with his girlfriend.

In conclusion, from my research, I think the comments against Carter’s photos were unjustified by American media and public opinion. He followed a code of ethics, and stuck to them. Because the photo caused so much emotion, readers heavily invested had a right to be so. But to say he should have intervened would be to put himself in the story.



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