Posted in Behind the News

Why we published a border deaths photo

, by John Daniszewski

AP decided on Tuesday to publish a photo of the bodies of a man and his 23-month-old daughter discovered Monday on the bank of the Rio Grande near Matamoros, Mexico, across the river from Brownsville, Texas.

It is, we feel, a highly newsworthy and important image directly relevant to this ongoing story. After lengthy discussions among editors in New York and Mexico City, we decided to publish the image on the wire.

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Julia Le Duc)

Images like this can be difficult to look at. But they also convey the reality of the border, where hundreds of people die each year attempting to cross into the United States illegally.

The AP does not transmit highly graphic or disturbing photographs for their own sake. We also avoid images that are gratuitously violent. But we have through our history made the decision at times to show disturbing images that are important and that can convey the human cost of war, civil unrest or other tragic events in a way that words alone cannot. 

We published the photo on, accompanied by a story that includes the broader context of the current situation on the border, as well as an account by Ramirez’s wife of the drownings, as told to Mexican police. 

We also sent the photo to our member news organizations and customers, along with an alert to its graphic nature, so that they could make their own judgments about whether to publish it.

We feel that distributing this image is consistent with the AP’s values and principles to bring factual information to the world.