U.S. News & World Report is in hot water over its choice of imagery for a recent article on terrorism.
The news outlet used a Getty Images photo of a turban-wearing Indian soldier ― likely a Sikh ― to accompany the piece headlined “How Terrorism Is Taught Around The World.” And people were not happy.
Social media users and members of the Sikh community spoke out, labeling the outlet “irresponsible” and guilty of perpetuating a false stereotype.
The outlet did not issue a public apology. But following the backlash, the image was soon replaced with a photo of New York’s Twin Towers with smoke coming out of the buildings after the 9/11 attacks.
“It was brought to our attention that some users objected to a photo we published” with the story on terrorism, Enxhi Myslymi, the outlet’s communications and public relations manager, told HuffPost in an email. “We reviewed the image, took the photo down, and updated it with a new one within 24 hours. We appreciate our readers for flagging these images for us.”
The Sikh Coalition told HuffPost that the original photo used with the story was not only offensive, but “dangerous.”
“While the Sikh beard and turban are articles of faith that represent a commitment to justice and equality, they have frequently been falsely associated with terrorism in the media with devastating consequences,” the organization said in a stement. “Images and words matter and the U.S. News image plays into a dangerous narrative that can intensify hate directed at Sikhs. No community deserves to be the target of backlash and bigotry.”
In the month following the 9/11 attacks, the coalition documented more than 300 cases of violence and discrimination against members of the Sikh community.
Years later, many Sikhs are still targets of discrimination and hate violence. And many Americans remain in the dark about the religion. A study by the National Sikh Campaign and Hart Research Associates found that 60 percent admitted to knowing nothing about Sikh Americans. When shown a photo of a Sikh person, Americans were more likely to identify the individual as Middle Eastern or Muslim.
The Sikh Coalition said that U.S. News and World Report should have “thought more critically” about their image choice and assessed the impact of their stories on the community.
The group launched a reporters’ guide late last year to help those in media cover Sikhs and avoid issues like the photo incident.