Debate rages online about viral images of dead Syrian child

Some defend publishing the photos on websites and in print in order to raise awareness of the refugee crisis; others insist it’s inappropriate, regardless of the circumstances.

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Images of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who had drowned in an attempt to reach the Greek island of Kos went viral Wednesday, sparking an ethics debate and bringing the refugee crisis front and center.

The body of the boy’s 5-year-old brother also washed up on Turkey’s shore, as at least 12 Syrians drowned in their attempt to reach Canada. The first picture of the toddler showed him lying on the shore; other photos circulated showing a policeman carrying his body.

The pictures quickly made the online rounds, and the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik—meaning, “humanity washed ashore”—became a Twitter trend.

The photographs were published on the front pages of The New York Times, The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and The Guardian. The images were featured in other European and American publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed and Mashable.

The Independent was criticized for running a picture of the boy’s washed-up body, instead of the boy being carried away.

The photos were also shown on several broadcast news shows. However, a handful of editors, including those at The Daily Express and Vox Media, published the news and refused to include the now-iconic pictures.

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