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Football Fireworks Claim Minor and Media Ethics in Bolivia

Fireworks at a football match [es] in Bolivia turned deadly after a flare hit and killed a 14-year-old boy. To cover the tragedy, media outlets used an image from the boy's Facebook page, sparking a debate on whether it is ethical, or even legal, to use photographs of minors from social networks.

The boy was supporting San Jose, a football club from Oruro city in Bolivia on February 20, 2013. San Jose was playing against Corinthians, a popular Brazilian squad and the defending champion of the 2012 Copa Libertadores, the most important football tournament for clubs in Latin America.

Five minutes after the kick-off Corinthians scored a goal. Although banned in football stadiums, some fans responded with celebratory fireworks, and a flare ended up hitting the 14 year-old Bolivian fan. Local media reported [es] that the boy received medical aid, but died of his injuries on the way to the hospital.

National and international media started to follow the events closely after several Corinthians’ fans were arrested; a few remain in police custody and could be prosecuted.

Tomislav Konestabo / Shutterstock.com

Tomislav Konestabo / Shutterstock.com

Netizen Mario Duran (@mrduranch) [es] pointed out that local media used the victim's Facebook profile image to cover the tragedy. Duran inquired on Twitter whether such publication is ethical, moral, or even legal:

@mrduranch: una duda, medios de prensa pueden publicar fotos de menores de edad? #bolivia

@mrduranch: Question, is the press entitled to publish photos of minors? #Bolivia

Netizens, and particularly journalists, reacted with different points of view. Mario Duran published a few responses on his blog Palabras Libres [es].

Fabiola Chambi (@fabiolachambi) [es], a journalist who is very active online, immediately reacted to Mario's question:

@fabiolachambi:@arquitecta @mrduranch No es ético, falta a la moral y habla mal del medio y de su proceder.

@fabiolachambi: @arquitecta @mrduranch It is unethical, it goes against morality and shows how badly the media acted.

Ruben Atahuichi (@RDAtahuichiL) [es], an editor at one of the largest national newspapers said:

@RDAtahuichiL@mrduranch Dependiendo de la connotación: si afectan su integridad o los ponen en riesgo, no

@RDAtahuichiL@mrduranch Depending on the connotations: if [the image] affects the integrity [of the minor] or threatens him, no.

Addressing the question from a legal angle, Mario Duran later commented:

@mrduranch: @gezn no es legal, no porque esta en internet puedes usar imagen de individuo sin consentimiento cc @sniferl4bs

@mrduranch: @gezn It is not legal, the fact that it's on the Internet does not give you the right to use an image without permission cc @sniferl4bs

Mauricio Quiroz (@MichoQuiroz) [es], another journalist, considers the issue from a different point of view:

@MichoQuiroz@RDAtahuichiL @mrduranch Si la imagen no denigra al menor pueder ser empleada. La imagen en cuestión es de contexto.

@MichoQuiroz@RDAtahuichiL @mrduranch If the image does not denigrate the child, it may be used. The image under scrutiny is giving context [to the news].

Cesar Galindo (@CesarGalindQNMP), a well known journalist and TV presenter, also joined the debate saying:

@CesarGalindQNMP: @mrduranch @jesus_alanoca Sin duda todos caemos en tentación sin importar las consecuencias pero la ética es un código q esta en la sangre

@CesarGalindQNMP: @mrduranch @jesus_alanoca Undoubtedly we all fall into temptation regardless of the consequences, but ethics is a code that is in the blood [of journalists]

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