A statement signed and published by some of the co-plaintiffs requested that the media not use the image and name of the perpetrator of the attacks in Halle. And to some degree this has been effective. Most notably local news media Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) has led the charge on this practice. Not only do they blur the attacker’s likeness and not give his full name, they have explained and continue to explain this choice in all their reporting on the trial.

Using a perpetrator’s name and likeness in an internationally-reported trial such as this is detrimental for several reasons: it reinforces their notoriety, it emphasises the individual over the communities and social conditions that led to their actions, and it foregrounds perpetrators over events and victims. The accused is aware of this, according to MDR

„Noch bevor er im Saal ist, wird über seinen Anwalt mitgeteilt: Er möchte mit vollem Namen genannt werden, kann gern unverpixelt gezeigt werden.“

“Before he even enters the courtroom, his attorney informs us: He wishes to be named in full. He can be shown unpixellated.”

The perpetrator has made very clear that he wants to be seen, just as he wants his video to be widely disseminated. The mainstream media – even more so the international media that has simply regurgitated the AFP write-up – must challenge this, and in doing so reflect on its role in carelessly propagating such content and imagery. 

Where publications have included other images the focus is almost exclusively on the Jewish community: the door, the synagogue, a yarmulke-clad head. The perpetrator has endlessly expressed his hate for non-white people but the global media refuses to visualise this beyond the comfortable limits of the Jewish victim. Imagery is important. What is included and what is left out of the photographic frame is a political choice. In these visual articulations, the media chooses for us whose stories are worth hearing and whose lives are worth protecting. 

What’s more, many publications are reproducing direct quotes from the attacker. It may be interesting to note that such quotes already form the topic of discussion on the same imageboards where his video and accompanying materials have been reposted and consumed since October. While just after the attack the accused was ridiculed on these boards as a pathetic failure, anonymous users are now reposting and engaging with his quoted statements, often expressing vehement agreement and even a need for further violence. 

There are a limited number of journalists in the courtroom in Magdeburg but the reach of their words and images is limitless. The world is watching. We expect better.