Why we decided to publish footage of the construction site tragedy

The easiest thing to do would have been to ignore it, trash it, and pretend it never existed. The man would remain simply another statistic.

The dangling wooden plank on which the man was working before it gave way
The dangling wooden plank on which the man was working before it gave way

A police press release came in at around noon containing the news that a 26-year-old Libyan man died after falling from a height of seven storeys in Sliema.

It was another construction site accident that would go down simply as another statistic. Very few, apart from his family and friends, would really care. Most would probably rationalise it as an unfortunate accident and move on in life.

But just after the police statement was reported by all news portals, video footage of the accident started doing the rounds on social media.

Like other newsrooms MaltaToday received the shocking footage. It showed the man hanging on to a rope after the wooden plank he was on gave way. In an act of desperation, he tried to climb back up but failed.

We decided to publish an edited version of the footage, fully aware that doing so we would be intruding into a very delicate moment for relatives.

But here was footage that showed the precarious state these workers were working in. They are not the first and definitely not the last to be working in dangerous conditions with no proper safety measures.

The footage is by all means shocking and disturbing.

The easiest thing to do would have been to ignore it, trash it, and pretend it never existed. The man would remain simply another statistic: “Another foreigner who fell and died.”

His family would grieve alone, probably not fully understanding what happened and trying to come to terms with a tragic situation.

Everyone else will continue with their lives, unperturbed.

But there was another choice to make and publish the footage in the hope that it would help people realise that this was not a simple “fall”, or “another foreigner who died on a construction site”.

The footage showed the stark third-world conditions employed by some in the construction industry oblivious of the big risks associated with the trade.

Lack of safety considerations by whoever was responsible on the construction site contributed to another senseless death. And this time it was not just “a foreigner who fell” but a shocking tragedy that killed a young man in his prime.

We decided to publish the footage in the hope that it would shock people, the construction sector and the authorities into action. Many times, the vulnerable workers are third country nationals, exploited by Maltese and foreign employers to do the dirty work on the cheap.

For too long many of these accidents simply passed off as another news report. This one was different and we felt the duty to bring it to public attention.

No explanation will ever console the man’s relatives and friends. Theirs is the biggest shock. But if the footage has helped to raise awareness, it would have gone some way into preventing this from happening to somebody else.

 

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