According to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 92 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 12 countries. In addition, since receiving its first reports of the infection on May 13, there have been cases of monkeypox in the United States, Australia, Canada, and across Europe.
So, it is a cause of concern that the western press continues to use photos of black Africans when reporting the cases and news related to monkeypox.
Perhaps most surprising is the realization that these reputable media houses have chosen to use decade-old photos of Africans instead of current pictures of those truly affected. The reason for this is not far-fetched; the western media is trying to create propaganda that ties monkeypox to black Africans.
Media outlets like the BBC, Sky News, ABC News, Reuters, and other international media outlets use old pictures of black Africans in their news reports and social media posts relating to monkeypox.
With their pedigree and structure, there is no denying that they have actual photos of the victims of monkeypox in Canada, the United States, Australia, and Europe, so why have they chosen to use decade-old pictures of black Africans?
Although the WHO claims that monkeypox is primarily found in western and central Africa, the new cases prove otherwise. Apart from the fact that there is no cure for the infection, the current global concern is that monkeypox is spreading in areas that are not endemic to the virus.
Also, people who have not visited Africa or had contact with Africans have reportedly been diagnosed with monkeypox during the current outbreak.
In a report by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) on May 20, the media house shared a photo of an electron microscope graphic showing cells, with a line in the caption reading; “For the first time, the disease appears to be spreading among people who didn’t travel to Africa.”
Before that report, all subsequent reports on monkeypox by the ABC portrayed photos of a black person with rashes and swollen lymph nodes. The photo used in an article that announced the spread and reported cases of monkeypox in America was taken in 1997 by the US Centers for Disease Control during a monkeypox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Critics have questioned the decision of the media outlet to use a 1997 African photo of a black African rather than photos taken from actual victims in the United States.
Similarly, a May 22 article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) used an image of a Black man’s torso showing open sores as the lead photo for an article about the outbreak of monkeypox. What is most alarming about the publication is that no African country was mentioned on the list of places where monkeypox cases have been reported.
Reacting to what many critics and African journalists have termed a deliberate attempt by the western media to stereotype Africa, the Foreign Press Association in Kenya, a group of journalists covering Africa for global outlets, released a statement.
“We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege and immunity to other races,” the association’s signed statement read.
“What is the convenience of using such images to tell the world how Europe and America are reeling from the outbreak of monkeypox? Is the media in the business of ‘preserving White purity’ through ‘Black criminality or culpability’?”
Are media outlets using Black people because these image providers have limited options? Kennedy Wandera, chair of the Foreign Press Association in Kenya, told Quartz that would be “a very lazy explanation.” But in that case, using microscopic images should suffice.
“What we are saying is that when you are saying there’s an outbreak of monkeypox in the UK or US, show us the images from hospitals in those countries,” he says.