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Was the media justified to enter this home?

by on December 5, 2015

Landlord Lets Reporters Into San Bernardino Suspect’s Home

The media was allowed into the home of the husband and wife who were the suspected shooters of the shooting in San Bernardino. The media claims they were justified, but were they?

“At first, the images of journalists rifling through the belongings raised questions on social media and many cable news outlets about what arrangements, if any, had been made in coordination with investigators, or if any were even necessary.”

There are a lot of ethical questions raised by this. What do you all think?

Personally, I think that the media was justified in going into the home but not justified in immediately releasing personal information about the couple.

“MSNBC said, “We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review.”

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One Comment
  1. We get a personal glimpse into the lives’ of the shooters by entering their home and viewing everything from baby formula on the counter to their blankets and beds, and I think that is important: understanding their involvement as militant Islamic radicals who kill and understanding the grander scheme of militant terrorists. Beyond legal questioning on whether entering the house is appropriate, the ethical dilemma it raises makes it a difficult question to answer.

    In this class, we read of a case in which the government refused to use footage of a prisoner who was murdered by two other prisoners during the legal case. They did not find this to be public footage, and found that prisoners and prisoners’ families deserved privacy.

    Similarly, despite their horrific actions, the two San Bernardino terrorists were individuals, who, had they not been killed by police in a shoot-out, would have been prisoners, and their house is a private location, where there is the expectation of privacy in their own space with their personal, private belongings. This could have repercussions for the family members, who may not be involved or connected to the terrorists’ actions but are ultimately tied to it because of released documents/footage. I also wonder about the child’s involvement.

    But, the footage in the prison also contained gruesome imagery, which is why the government decided not to disclose it. It also was in the best interest of the family, who were grieving the death of their family member and deserved the respect. This, instead, is their home — while, personal, it does not contain footage of them.

    It begs me to think: while this atrocity was horrific, are the deaths of these two individuals “ungrievable”? Are they not human, too? Do they not deserve the respect of privacy of the deceased? This is not a simple answer. It is simple to jump the justification that these two do not deserve any rights, because of their dehumanizing act and out of respect for the victims and their families? But don’t the families of the terrorists have any rights? Don’t they deserve to mourn and celebrate the lives of their loved ones, privately and respectfully — which would mean not disclosing personal documents, photographs, etc. while they grieve? I really don’t have an answer for this.

    The only mistake I would say they made was showing photographs of personal documents. That is where I would draw the line. Ultimately, this is a question of public interest vs. privacy of family/deceased. Is necessary and important for the public to be informed through imagery of the terrorists’ home? I do not think it is a simple answer.

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