PRESS RELEASE: Malta reported its firs case of Monkey pox and unexpectedly, pictures of Black people were represented in certain newspapers. Would you represent Good health in Malta with a picture of a Black person? We bet no.
Representation should matter at all times: in good health and in bad health situations.
It is with regret that we note the recurrent use of images of Black people to denote contagious diseases or humanitarian disasters.
Some Maltese press outlets have not seen fit to depart from this rule, which is totally incompatible with the requirements of quality journalism, by deciding to accompany the news of the first case of monkeypox in Malta with photos of Black persons.
It should be noted that according to the World Health Organisation, Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. It is a disease of global public health importance as it not only affects countries in West and Central Africa, but the rest of the world. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs.
It is unfortunate that the press indulges in the game of populists who do not hesitate to stigmatize their populations against foreigners in order to cling to power.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. Malta is a country where Black people are continually attacked and assaulted in their dignity, racism is the rule in many circles. We cannot forget the recent news about Lamine Jaiteh, an injured African worker who was dumped like a trash on a road side by an unscrupulous employer, or the first official racially motivated murder of a Black man, Lassana Cisse in 2019.
While the press should be vigilant in combating injustice, it seems that by carelessly reporting some sensitive issues like public health, they associate themselves with the oppressor.
Monkeypox attacks Whites, Blacks and Asians equally.
If images of people have to be associated with the first case of Monkeypox in Malta, it would make sense to use a picture of a White person, as it would certainly be to represent wealth and good health in Malta. There are many stock images of White people suffering from Monkeypox.
It is dangerous to send the message in society that Black people are the carriers of infectious diseases. Not only is this not true, but it will be the source of many more racist attacks, many more acts of exclusion and discrimination.
This is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the lack of diversity in media workplaces is the cause of these recurring ethical shortcomings that severely damage the quality and reputation of journalism.