December 5, 2012

New York Post photo of train victim sparks outrage

The front-page image shows a man desperately trying to climb off the tracks before being killed.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Police questioned a suspect Tuesday in the death of a New Yorker who was pushed onto the tracks and photographed just before a train hit him -- an image that drew virulent criticism after it appeared on the front page of the New York Post.

click image to enlarge

Police officers stand outside the Times Square subway station on Monday after the death of Ki-Suck Han. Police on Tuesday questioned a man suspected of pushing Han onto the tracks.

The Associated Press

Investigators recovered security video showing a man fitting the description of the assailant working with street vendors near Rockefeller Center, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.

Witnesses told investigators they saw the suspect talking to himself Monday afternoon before he approached Ki-Suck Han at the Times Square station, got into an altercation with him and pushed him into the train's path.

Police took the man into custody Tuesday, but he hasn't yet been charged.

Han, 58, of Queens died shortly after being struck. Police said he tried to climb a few feet to safety but got trapped between the train and the platform's edge.

The Post published a photo on its front page Tuesday of Han desperately looking at the train, his arms reaching up as he tried to climb off the tracks. It was shot by freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi, who was waiting to catch a train as the situation unfolded.

Abbasi said in a video interview on the Post's website that he used the flash on his camera to try to warn the train driver that someone was on the tracks. He said he wasn't strong enough to lift Han.

"I wanted to help the man, but I couldn't figure out how to help," Abbasi said. "It all happened so fast."

Emotional questions arose Tuesday over the photograph of Han accompanied by a headline that read in part: "This man is about to die."

The moral issue among professional photojournalists in such situations is "to document or to assist," said Kenny Irby, an expert in the ethics of visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit journalism school.

Other media outlets chimed in on the controversy, many questioning why the photograph had been taken and published.

"I'm sorry. Somebody's on the tracks. That's not going to help," said Al Roker on NBC's "Today" show as the photo was displayed.

 

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