Unicef condemns Sonny Bill Williams' sharing of graphic photos of dead children


Sonny Bill Williams travelled to Lebanon with Unicef in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees.

Unicef has condemned Sonny Bill Williams post featuring extremely graphic pictures of two dead children.

The popular All Black tweeted the two pictures, which Stuff has chosen not to publish due to their graphic nature, on Tuesday evening along with the caption: "What did these children do to deserve this? This summer share a thought for the innocent lives lost everyday in war."

The tweet comes less than a month after Williams' return from visiting a refugee camp in Lebanon as a Unicef ambassador.

Williams travelled with the charity to help bring awareness to the plight of Syrian children and their families living in the camps.

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Sonny Bill Williams has tweeted two graphic pictures of dead children following a trip to Lebanon as a Unicef ambassador ...

Sonny Bill Williams has tweeted two graphic pictures of dead children following a trip to Lebanon as a Unicef ambassador but Unicef says the post has nothing to do with them.

However, the graphic tweet, which has been met with mixed reviews from the public, was not part of Unicef's plan to raise awareness.

Unicef NZ spokesman Patrick Rose said the posting of the images was entirely Williams' own choice and he did not consult with the charity before doing so.

Unicef would not be sharing the images and asked its supporters to also refrain from doing so, Rose said.

Williams was moved by his trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon earlier this month.

Williams was moved by his trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon earlier this month.

By Wednesday afternoon the tweet had been shared about 1200 times.

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"UNICEF'S mission is to protect the dignity and rights of children - even in death.

"Children have a right under a United Nations convention to how their image is portrayed and it is our joint responsibility to give children this right in death." 

SBW with children at the refugee camp.

SBW with children at the refugee camp.

The photos were not taken during Williams' trip to Lebanon with Unicef, they were pictures that had been circulating online for years.

Unicef is working to aid children in Syria and neighbouring countries who are facing brutal acts of violence, Rose said.

"As the crisis enters its fifth year and the violence escalates, there is no shortage of deeply upsetting images in the media and online.  

"UNICEF encourages people to respond to this horror through constructive support of projects to help these children cope with the violence they've witnessed, stay healthy and build a better future through education."  

Rose said Williams was "deeply moved" by his experience in the region earlier in December "and he's on a personal journey of making sense of the crisis".

Unicef NZ executive director Vivien Maidaborn, who travelled to Lebanon with Williams, said she understood why he posted the photos but they were unlikely to have the desired effect.

"I think the photos he posted were an expression of his sense of bewilderment with the world," she said.

"I don't think it's useful for us to to get into a cycle of fear and terror and shock, we need to move through that."

Unicef's preferred method was to focus people on things they could do to help, like donating money to help equip refugee families for winter.

Kiwis could also support education programmes to help stop boys going back across the border to join armies and girls being married off at a young age - about 25 per cent of Lebanese girls are married at 14.

During his trip to Lebanon Williams said he did not realise how "ignorant" he was when it came to the plight of Syrian refugees.

"I came here and what I've heard, what I've seen, I've just been shocked and it's just made me realise how ignorant I was," he said.

"The thing that really touched me was, coming here, I didn't really know what a refugee was.

"I mean, I knew what a refugee was but did I really know? No, not until I came here. It kind of hit home, how ignorant I was."

Williams' tweet has garnered a mixed reaction from the public, with some offering prayers and sharing his outrage.

"Oh my that just breaks my heart. Those poor babies. Their poor poor parents," tweeted one followers.

While others disagreed with his decision to post the horrific pictures.

"The photos should be censored. Respecting the dead if Im not mistaken [sic]," tweeted one user.

"Although I sympathise [with your] reasons for posting this, it's not wise. It can be a trigger for some [people]. Also young followers," tweeted another.

Meanwhile, more than three quarters of votes on a Stuff poll are in support of the publication of the images.

Lebanon, which shares its eastern border with Syria, has given shelter to more than 1.2 million refugees since the Syrian conflict began five years ago.

To donate, visit https://www.unicef.org.nz/sbw

 - Stuff

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