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May 13, 2014

Is The Guardian right to obscure the faces of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls?

By William Turvill

The Guardian is the only UK national newspaper to have concealed the faces of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls who feature in a video released yesterday which apparently came from terror group Boko Haram.

The footage has dominated online, print and broadcast news since it emerged yesterday. And along with the i, Independent, Evening Standard (yesterday), Daily Telegraph and Times, The Guardian used a grab of the video on its front page today. It was the only newspaper to hide the girls’ faces.

Meanwhile, BBC News, Sky News and Channel 4 News each featured the video on television without blurring out faces.

The BBC, though, did conceal the face of a girl who features close up in the video on its website. A BBC spokesperson said the face was blurred online because the website is readily accessible in Nigeria.

The video also features on The Guardian's website with all of the girls’ faces blurred out. The caption under the video explained that their faces had been hidden to “protect identities”.

The caption said: “A new video released by Islamist militant group Boko Haram claims to show the kidnapped schoolgirls from Nigeria for the first time. More than 100 girls are seen sitting outside in a group wearing veils and praying in an undisclosed location. In the full video, which is 17 minutes long, the leader of the Islamist group, Abubakar Shekau, says the girls have converted to Islam. The Guardian has concealed the girls' faces to protect identities.”

A GNM spokesperson told Press Gazette: "The Guardian chose to obscure the faces in the video to protect their identities. The schoolgirls had no choice about appearing in the video, they are the victims of crime and many of them are minors.

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"Last week there was an outcry about naming some of the schoolgirls because of potential social stigma in Nigeria attached to what might have happened to them."

The Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code states: "A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents." But the PCC does allow such photos if there is a clear public interest.

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