As Kenya reels from the deadly attack on an upmarket hotel in capital Nairobi that killed 14 people, a controversy over a New York Times (NYT) article has added to the anger. Many Kenyans have taken to Twitter since Wednesday evening to express their feelings on the assault on Dusit Hotel complex, claimed by the armed group, al-Shabab.
Using the hashtag #WeShallOvercome, Kenyans tweeted messages of solidarity. However, another, angrier hashtag soon emerged in response to the NYT coverage of the tragedy. An NYT article by its East Africa bureau chief, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, showed the aftermath of the attack, including images of wounded people and dead bodies.
The article drew ire of some Kenyans who used a slightly harsh hashtag – #DeportKimiko – to protest the images of graphic violence against black Africans, calling them disrespectful and biased. They argued that such images would never be used in the coverage of tragedies in the United States, where the NYT is based.
— TONNY 254 ® 🇰🇪 (@Antoniotonny3) January 16, 2019
#deportkimiko @kimidefreytas you claim that it the companies policy to share disturbing pictures. Please show us what happened to that policy when similar attack occurred in the US and Europe..or is it just an african policy??? The internet never forgets. pic.twitter.com/Gnv7be8GwX
— Tahii (@MutahiBrian) January 16, 2019
Soon, another hashtag #SomeoneTellNYTimes began trending, with many tweets showing photos of people providing the victims aid after the assault.
United than ever. Kenyans are also donating blood all over.
Terrorism will never triumph! pic.twitter.com/rMPBIyie1i
— Donald L. Agwenge (@DonaldAgwenge) January 16, 2019
In response, the NYT tweeted a statement expressing its respect for those affected by the attack but also defending its use of the images.
“It is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this. This includes showing pictures that are not sensationalised but that give a real sense of the situation.”
We have heard from some readers upset with our publishing a photo showing victims after a brutal attack in Nairobi. We understand how painful this coverage can be, and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images in these situations. https://t.co/Qjm0qBMaF3 pic.twitter.com/1sqgTnnVKW
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 15, 2019
#SomeoneTellNYtimes we do not need your sensationalized photos to "get the picture". We have family, friends, fellow Kenyans who have lived the nightmare of terrorism. Some are gone forever. You are a disgrace. Disrespectful.
— Kambua (@Kambua) January 16, 2019
However, The Red Cross on Thursday said 19 people remain unaccounted for, two days after Somali militants attacked a hotel complex in Nairobi, killing no fewer than 21 people. Al Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate fighting to impose strict Islamic law, said it carried the assault on the upscale dusitD2 compound over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A woman cries after identifying the body of a relative at the Chiromo mortuary in Nairobi, Kenya on January 16, 2019 after a blast followed by a gun battle that rocked the upmarket hotel complex the day before.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on January 16, 2019 that all Islamists who had stormed an upmarket hotel complex had been “eliminated” after an almost 20-hour siege that left several dead.