Dear Dylan Matthias, Editor-in-Chief of the Dalhousie Gazette,
We, the below signed, are writing to you in protest of the editorial written on October 7th, 2011, entitled “Smile, you’re at a protest.” As students, and members of the Dalhousie community, we are truly outraged at your publication for participating directly in victim blaming, and frankly, ignorant journalism.
We find it is unethical and unacceptable for the Dalhousie Gazette to publish photographs of individuals’ bodies without their consent. Furthermore, it is unsettling to find that even when the individual asked for their photograph to be taken down, this request was denied. The denial was subsequently followed up with an insulting and derogatory editorial.
It is important, Mr. Matthias, that you are educated on several matters:
First, being a good journalist does not mean violating a person’s right to confidentiality. It also does not mean that it is necessary to provide sexualized, and de-contextualized photos in order to give important and vital information. If you understood what SlutWalk and Take Back the Night protests were truly about (which a good journalist reporting on them should), then you would understand that consent is of the utmost importance.
This brings us to our second point: please discontinue your use of victim blaming when you are being called out for something you have done wrong. Your statement that, “when you protest something, you invite the public into your bedroom” is absolutely not true. In fact, these events actively protest that very idea: participating in certain behaviours, (such as walking at night, or to school, or in a protest, ect. [sic] – things which we, as Canadian citizens, have every right to do), does not entitle others to harass or perpetuate violence against you. This includes the pushy, unethical and ignorant behaviour of publishing photographs of somebody without their consent. It should be noted that the reporter assigned to SlutWalk was not even actually in attendance at the event.
This is called the responsibility of the press. You do not get to do whatever you want because you write for the school newspaper. It is your responsibility to provide fair and true information without smudging the facts in order to make a good story. It is your responsibility to ensure that your sources have not been manipulated into providing you with information or having their photo taken. It is your responsibility to treat people and their causes with respect.
Finally, we believe it important to make it clear that we are not protesting your right to write an article expressing your opinion, nor are we protesting the idea of including a photo of someone marching in a bra. We are protesting the fact that you did not receive consent from this individual. In public space, you must always obtain consent from and individual before publishing photographs of them. In this case, not only was consent not obtained, but clear and direct requests made by this person to have her photograph removed were denied.
As a result of these oversights, we demand that the photograph be removed from the Dalhousie gazette website, and that the editor-in-chief issue a formal apology.
Ellen Taylor, Campaigns Coordinator, Dalhousie Women’s Centre