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Norway’s PM challenges Facebook over Kim Phuc’s iconic nude napalm attack photograph

Norwegians have posted the iconic photo of a naked, screaming girl running from a napalm attack in Vietnam on their social media network in protest, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg joined them on Friday

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The front page of Norway's Aftenposten is seen at a news stand in Oslo, Norway, Sept. 9, 2016. The newspapers chief editor accused Facebook of abusing its power after it deleted an 1972 iconic image of a nude Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack. Source: VOA
  • Protests against Facebook restrictions on nude photos challenged by Norway’s prime minister
  • Norwegians against Mark Zuckerberg’s decision of removing an image of a naked, screaming girl running from a napalm attack in Vietnam
  • Facebook responded that “it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK, Sept 12, 2016 —Facebook’s restrictions on nude photos was challenged by Norway’s prime minister on Friday for posting an iconic 1972 image of a naked, screaming girl running from a napalm attack in Vietnam. Facebook quickly deleted it.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning image by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut is at the center of a heated debate about freedom of speech in Norway after Facebook removed it from a Norwegian author’s page last month.

Since then many Norwegians have posted the photo on the social media network in protest, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg joined them on Friday. Facebook removed her post within hours, said Sigbjorn Aanes, one of Solberg’s aides.

“What they do by removing images of this kind, whatever [the] good intentions, is to edit our common history,” Solberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

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Facebook, in a statement from its European headquarters in London, responded that “it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”

The little girl in the image, Kim Phuc, is naked and crying as the napalm melts away layers of her skin.

Solberg’s lead was followed by several members of the Norwegian government and they also posted the photo on their Facebook pages. One of them, Education Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, said it was “an iconic photo, part of our history.”

Solberg later reposted the image with a black box covering the girl from the thighs up. She also posted other iconic photos of historic events, such as the man standing in front of a tank in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, with black boxes covering the protagonists.

“While I was on a plane from Oslo to Trondheim, Facebook deleted a post from my Facebook page,” she wrote. “Today, pictures are such an important element in making an impression, that if you edit past events or people, you change history and you change reality.”

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten published the photo on its front page Friday and also wrote an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in which chief editor Espen Egil Hansen accused the social media giant of abusing its power.

Hansen said he was “upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

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“We try to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community,” Facebook’s statement said. “Our solutions won’t always be perfect, but we will continue to try to improve our policies and the ways in which we apply them.”

Paul Colford, AP vice president and director of media relations, said: “The Associated Press is proud of Nick Ut’s photo and recognizes its historical impact. In addition, we reserve our rights to this powerful image.” (VOA)

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USAID Launches $183mn Cleanup at Vietnam Storage Site for Agent Orange

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into groundwater and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese

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FILE - A Vietnamese soldier stands guard at the dioxin-contaminated area at Bien Hoa airbase, where the U.S. Army stored the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, in Bien Hoa city, outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, October 17, 2018. VOA

The U.S. launched on Saturday a $183 million cleanup at a former Vietnam storage site for Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used in the nations’ bitter war, which years later is still blamed for severe birth defects, cancers and disabilities.

Located outside Ho Chi Minh City, Bien Hoa air base — the latest site scheduled for rehabilitation after Danang air base’s cleanup last year — was one of the main storage grounds for Agent Orange and was only hastily cleared by soldiers near the war’s end more than four decades ago.

U.S. forces sprayed 80 million liters (21 million gallons) of Agent Orange over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 in a desperate bid to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

agent orange
US Arm APC spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam. Wikimedia

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into groundwater and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese — from enlarged heads to deformed limbs.

Largest ‘hot spot’ left

At Bien Hoa, more than 500,000 cubic meters of dioxin had contaminated the soil and sediment, making it the “largest remaining hot spot” in Vietnam, said a statement from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which kicked off a 10-year remediation effort Saturday.

The dioxin amounts in Bien Hoa are four times more than the volume cleaned up at Danang airport, a six-year, $110 million effort that was completed in November.

“The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic,” said the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, at Saturday morning’s launch, which was attended by Vietnamese military officials and U.S. senators.

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USAID Launches Latest Cleanup of Agent Orange Site. Wikimedia

Hanoi says up to 3 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, and that 1 million suffer grave health repercussions today — including at least 150,000 children with birth defects.

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An attempt by Vietnamese victims to obtain compensation from the United States has met with little success. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 declined to take up the case, while neither the U.S. government nor the manufacturers of the chemical have ever admitted liability.

While U.S. officials have never admitted direct links between Agent Orange and birth defects, USAID on Saturday also issued a “memorandum of intent” to work with government agencies to improve the lives of people with disabilities in seven Vietnamese provinces. (VOA)