The AP Apologizes After Cropping Ugandan Activist Out Of Photo With Fellow Climate Activists
The Associated Press said there "was no ill intent" after they were called out for cutting Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate.
January 24, 2020 at 9:16 pm
The Associated Press was forced to reissue a photo after being called out online for cutting Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of a photo with Greta Thunberg.
Nakate, Thunberg and three other young climate activists were taking part in panels and conferences at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday. But in the first stories issued by The Associated Press and other outlets, the main photo used cropped out Nakate and focused on Thunberg or the other three activists, all of whom are white.
Nakate took notice of this and quickly made sure everyone knew she was there.
I was cropped out of this photo!
— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) January 24, 2020
In a follow-up message and video, Nakate spoke about what it meant to be there with Thunberg and how it felt to be intentionally left out of a photo with someone who inspired her to become a climate activist.
Share if you can
What it means to be removed from a photo! https://t.co/1dmcbyneYV
— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) January 24, 2020
She was invited to the conference by an NGO and spoke about how climate change is affecting countries like Uganda.
The 23-year-old explained how overjoyed she was to be at Davos before she went online to share her story and realized she had been cropped out of the main AP story photo which kept in activists Luisa Neubauer, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille.
"What hurt me the most was that I was just thinking about the people from my country and the people from Africa, and how much I've seen people being affected by the climate crisis. I've seen people die, lose their families, children, homes and everything they've ever dreamed up. I saw all this and thought about who is going to speak for these people and help or bring their message across. The media that we are supposed to share our story with is so disappointing," she said through tears in the video.
She also called out the AP for initially not apologizing and simply changing the photo without any mention of what happened.
"They have the guts to change the photo without even giving an explanation or an apology. Does that mean that I have no value as an African activist? The people of Africa have no value at all? You erasing our voices won't change anything," Nakate said.
"I saw many news companies did the same thing," she added.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the AP said there was no "ill intent" behind the cropping.
“There was no ill intent. AP routinely publishes photos as they come in and when we received additional images from the field, we updated the story. AP has published a number of images of Vanessa Nakate,” a spokesperson said.
But they later changed their tune.
"We regret publishing a photo this morning that cropped out Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, the only person of color in the photo," the outlet said according to The Hill. "As a news organization, we care deeply about accurately representing the world that we cover."
Since last year, Nakate has been leading her own campaign for climate change in Uganda.
This is me! Your LONE climate striker from Uganda. I don't choose to be that way but nothing to do about it. I was inspired by @GretaThunberg to start climate strikes in Africa and I am still going. I will introduce something to the climate movement. Hope you like it. Thanks pic.twitter.com/CGipgM1QQd
— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) September 1, 2019
There has been significant backlash toward the media obsession over Thunberg, with many across the world questioning why she was being promoted over other climate activists of color, particularly Black ones.
Thunberg herself has slammed media outlets for fawning over her, addressing the issue head-on in December during an interview with PBS.
“Our stories have been told over and over again. There is no need to listen to us anymore. It is people especially from the global south, especially from indigenous communities, who need to tell their stories,” Thunberg said.
In a tweet, Thunberg apologized to Nakate for what happened, and another activist followed suit.
I’m so sorry they did this to you… you are the last one who would deserve that! We are all so grateful for what you are doing and we all send love and support!!❤️❤️????????????hope to see you soon again!!
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 24, 2020
We did a press conference today wrapping up the week at #WEF2020
It has come to my attention that more than one article has cut @vanessa_vash out of the photos. That is unacceptable, her voice is just as, if not more, valuable than ours in a place like this. #ClimateJustice
— Isabelle Axelsson???? (@isabelle_ax) January 24, 2020
Nakate thanked Thunberg but told BuzzFeed News that the refusal of the AP to apologize showed what they thought of people from Africa.
“I cried because it was so sad not just that it was racist, I was sad because of the people from Africa. It showed how we are valued. It hurt me a lot. It is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life,” Nakate told BuzzFeed News via Twitter DMs.