Publishing is never an anodyne act. In the eyes of the law, it is the direction of a publication that is likely to be prosecuted as a “principal author” of a published provocation, the journalists, artists, or photographers are only “accomplices”. While everyone is free to express himself or herself in private without any limitation, the simple act of making texts or images public is socially and legally controversial. The Charlie Hebdo leadership and its journalists had had lengthy debates prior to publishing the caricatures of Muhammed. They always accepted their decision, even before the courts. They died for it.
For each issue of 6Mois, we debate among ourselves. Sometimes these debates are heated, even if their scope obviously has nothing to do with the publication of caricatures of Muhammad.
This issue of 6Mois raised two dilemmas.
The first concerns the reporting on the effects of pesticides in Argentina. This exceptional investigation contains numerous shots of children suffering from malformations due to chemical products. Some of the images are unbearable. Successive portfolios were put together by the editorial team and artistic directors, in several versions with or without the cruellest photos. The main question was that of terror. How much should be shown ? We chose to be explicit – not to hide the existence of seriously disabled children – without publishing the photos that revolted us. The captions and interview with Fabrice Nicolino seemed sufficiently clear to us.
The second debate is even more paradoxical. It got the editorial team fired up over the interview with Christophe Bangert. This German photojournalist is the author of a book whose title says it all : War Porn. His most shocking pictures (particularly of Iraq) are presented in this book, which opposes their non-publication in newspapers. He says it represents an occulting of the reality of war.
For death, as for sex, the limits between eroticism (suggestion) and pornography (seeing) are tenuous, and variable according to the time and space. An aestheticization of violence exists, against which the German photographer is rebelling. The interview is exciting. But should we have published images taken from War Porn alongside it ? We limited ourselves to a single photo, remaining on the threshold of horror. The discussion was lively. “That’s hypocritical !” bellowed one. “Illogical !” added another. We think that debate is important. It’s up to individual readers to decide whether or not to buy War Porn. Our responsibility is to allow individuals to question themselves without necessarily entering the realm of terror.
Journalism is a perpetual dilemma. The boundaries are shifting. We move forward with no certainties, on a wire, surrounded by the chaos of events. The main thing is to make choices and stand by them, precisely in the name of those who have paid for their commitments in blood. There is a lovely line by the poet René Char, that is just as valid for journalists as for all of us in our daily lives : “You can’t reread yourself, but you can sign your name.”
Laurent Beccaria, Patrick de Saint Exupéry, et Marie-Pierre Subtil