The All India Working News Cameramen Association (WNCA), the representative organisation of photo and video journalists in the country, has strongly condemned remarks made by the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta.
Appearing before the Supreme Court in the course of a hearing on the ‘migrant crisis’ on May 27, Mehta had compared photo and video journalists to a ‘vulture’ by narrating an incident involving an international news photographer in court.
In a statement issued on Monday, S.N. Sinha, President, and Sondeep Shankar, General Secretary of WNCA, said by capturing and recording the migrants’ tragedies in their cameras, the photojournalists, at considerable risk to their well being, were bringing images and bearing witness to the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the partition.
They pointed out that the photojournalists were doing their job by bringing the ‘cold and hard truth’ of the migrants’ situation to shake the conscience of the people and spur the government to taking remedial action.
“Tushar Mehta in his enthusiasm to defend the indefensible inaction of the government, misrepresented facts about the picture of Kevin Carter, the Sudanese girl, and the vulture, implying that the photographer should have helped the girl instead of photographing it,” Sinha and Shankar remarked.
As a matter of fact, Carter, the iconic and Pulitzer winning photojournalist, had shooed away the vulture after capturing the human tragedy, they added in the statement.
“The Solicitor General misled the apex court by claiming and using fake news that the celebrated photojournalist committed suicide a few months later because of his guilty feeling of not helping the girl,” they said.
The WNCA said the purpose of photo and video journalism was to bear witness to reality and stir the conscience of the public to the cruelty of that reality and call those in power to account. Two pictures – a starving migrant worker eating a dog’s carcass, and the other of baby tugging at a cloth covering the child’s dead mother – brought the horrors of the migrant workers’ crisis to the notice of the world, the two photojournalists said.
“Unfortunately, the top law officer of the government chose to target the messenger instead of acting on the message in the august precincts of the Supreme Court. We demand that the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta should immediately withdraw his averment and apologise to the photojournalist community,” the WCNA said.
They also urged the Press Council of India to intervene in the case and urge the Supreme Court to strike down Mehta’s statement.