Chris Ware color caricature of of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. (MCT 2011)

On Oct. 20, CNN reported the death of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator of 42-years. This report could be seen as a celebration for much of the world, especially those who supported the rebel forces who overthrew Gadhafi’s government in August. However, the video that was published along with the report of his death on CNN.com is nothing short of gruesome.

Many people would not have expected to see such explicit material on CNN’s website, since the organization is an accredited, popular news station. The video, entitled “Gadhafi’s final moments,” showed the rebel forces pulling Gadhafi out of a drainage pipe while already dripping blood. Shots of gunfire could be heard in the background as the forces shoved Gadhafi, who was at the moment pleading for his life, into a pickup truck.  A photo gallery of Gadhafi’s final moments is also on the site. A warning appears before clicking on the photo gallery cautioning viewer discretion and warning of “graphic images.” Yet, if a news site needs to put up a warning before displaying something, it simply shouldn’t be displayed, unless it is essential to the news story. Yes, Gadhafi was a leader who ruled by the “iron fist” and killed many Libyans and even Americans, yet the video was not necessary. The story that accompanied the video was informative and stated all of the facts that needed to be known to understand what had happened. Therefore, the gruesome video and photos of Gadhafi pleading for his life were not required.

Being a journalist means deciding what is ethical and necessary. At The Viking Press, we defer to an established code of ethics to determine how to proceed with material that may be controversial. We talk about things like news values (informing the public, for example) being measured against any harm that may come with reporting a story.

If revenge is seen as unethical to many people, shouldn’t an actual video of revenge be considered unethical also? Furthermore, since CNN is such a large, respected site, viewers of any age have access to its content. Should a child be able to view a video of a man being tortured, dripping blood, and begging for dear life? We believe CNN should have reconsidered the decision to post this video. No one deserves such disgrace. The video was unethical and should have been given more consideration before being posted on such a prevalent website.