MSF accused of racism and commodifying patients


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been accused of racism for allowing its photographers to take thousands of photos of traumatized, suffering or unconscious black people in its clinics and sale the images on stock libraries, with one image allegedly being sold at about K450,000.

The international NGO, also known as Doctors without Borders, has been called out over its conduct which has been described as a human rights violation.

Benjamin Chesterton, director of a UK film production company Duckrabbit, condemned the organisation for letting photographers take photos of frightened and traumatized patients in its hospitals and sale the images on stock libraries.

Chesterton argued that it is visible from the images that the patients did not consent to having their photos taken.

Chesterton gave an example of a 14 year old child, who went to an MSF clinic after being allegedly gang raped and was photographed whilst seeking treatment for internal injuries and HIV preventative drugs. The photo of the child was put up for sale on a stock library for £375 (Over K450,000), according to the activist.

“I have 3500 photos sat on my hard drive taken for @MSF in the Congo. Some of those images extremely sensitive. It never occurred to me we would sell the images as stock because NO-ONE in the pictures consented to this,” Chesterton tweeted.

In May, MSF, which is known for providing medical aid in emergency zones around the world, was forced to take down two photos of a 16-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who was gang-raped by three armed men.

The organisation published the photos on its website but after being condemned for human rights violations and racism, MSF removed the photos from an article that also mentioned the child’s name.

In 2020, one thousand current and former MSF staff accused the organisation of  being institutionally racist and reinforcing colonialism and white supremacy in its humanitarian work.

Following the accusations, MSF made a public commitment to tackle discrimination and racism within the organisation.

MSF has offices and operates in Malawi.

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