March 28, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

I believe that journalism is one of the most effective forces that may work wonders in the world. However, the fact is that a journalist who is writing a story or taking a photograph usually does not know if the same piece of journalism would either emerge as an influencing force or not. The same thing had happened way back in 1968 on 1st February.

The whole world was witnessing the Vietnam war, which had been going on since 1955. The North Vietnamese, with support of China were fighting the South Vietnamese, duly supported by USA.  A group of journalists, from all over the world, were active in the field to show to the world the horrible sights of human killings, every day.

The world had become used to reading the news and seeing the photos of killings in the Far East. But then all of a sudden, a single photo jolted the whole world. One black and white photo of a person shooting another on the road in Saigon City startled the whole world. Hundreds and thousands of published photos until then had not touched the human consciousness, during all those days of war.

You can see the photo here, where South Vietnamese Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan is shooting Nguyen Van Lem. The photo was taken at the moment when the bullet fired from a distance of less than one foot was entering the head of Lem. The photo was taken by Eddie Adams of Associated Press, who was present at that moment, along with Von Suu, a cameraman for NBC.

This event took place on 1st February 1968. As per Wikipedia, Lem was a member of Viet Cong, who had murdered an officer of the South Vietnamese army and seven members of his family. He was taken to Brigadier General Loan, who summarily executed him by a shot in his head.  Adams who took this photograph, later won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.

The photo, by itself, played a major role in galvanizing the anti-war movement in the USA in particular and the whole world in general. The anti war movement got a boost by using this particular photo. The pro war policies of the American government, started facing a real big challenge from inside the country.

As to the moment when the photo was taken, Adams, the photographer, later on told that at that particular moment he had thought that the Vietnamese General was going to “threaten or terrorise” Lem. He took his camera to capture that particular moment when the General had brought his revolver very near to the head of Lem. But when he clicked the shutter of the camera, he captured the very moment when the bullet had entered Lem’s head.

I remember seeing this photo in newspaper when I was just 13 years old, and I cannot forget it. It has made its place in my inner mind, and I am sure that is the same case for hundreds and thousands of people around the globe.

We all believe in peace and peaceful living. I wish not to come across any such photo in the remainder of my life.

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