The UK Sunday Times & Brent Stirton Come Out With a Winner

By Emmanuel Narokobi

I once read somewhere that there is no Pornography, just good and bad art. But I’m not so sure about that? I think Porn is Porn no matter how you frame it. It’s just that Porn has a time and place that’s all. A picture supposedly tells a thousand words, so what exactly did Brent Stirton have in mind when he photographed a naked Papua New Guinean lady for a supplement printed by the Scottish Sunday Times??

Make no mistake about Brent, he is a true professional and I admire allot of his work. One of his most memorable was his photojournalism work covering the slaughter of Gorilla’s in the Congo. He’s won numerous awards and works for big media names like CNN and Getty Images.

So with an eye for a story and a skill for painting images to stir emotions he certainly did not hold back in giving us a master piece from PNG.

Commenting on the world’s oldest profession is nothing new, so he explains his approach as follows; “As journalists we often have to find new ways to tell an old story. I believe in trying to tell that story in the most powerful way I can under the limited circumstance that time brings to any assignment. I am trying to be less concerned with who I am working for and more concerned about what I am doing with my time. This is crucial period in our history on this planet and I want to feel like I am working on issues that matter beyond the sensationalism of the 24 hour news cycle.“

ahem…really?? Okay…sooo what were the limited circumstances and views beyond sensationalism in this image?

Looks like allot of time was taken to get the lighting correct against some studio like backdrop, or maybe it was a quick shot in some hotel? But as far as photojournalism  goes, what is he trying to say about sex workers here? And who the hell approved this image for printing at the Scottish Sunday Times?


Trina Bohan Tyri, from Scotland, took the time to bring our attention to this. As if our women don’t already have a hard time in this country and then some foreign paper has our women displayed like this?? What sort of sick Porn is the UK Sunday Times peddling? Trina put it better in her words as follows:

Dear All

The Scottish Sunday times supplement last week end, published a photo magazine by Brent Stirton

Amidst the usual amazing photo ops that PNG has to offer, l was shocked by the one below.

Urban and Tribally speaking  PNG Women do not EVER display their genitals.

I an incensed and fed up.

For those that wish to chime in and

……..this is my response

Dear Sunday Times Magazine,

To portray in your Sunday magazine Special Issue a nameless Papua New Guinea woman naked and displaying her genitals is an affront and an outrage to Papua New Guinea Society of the highest order. And also me.

Having lived for some years in PNG  l can assure you and your readers that Brent Stirton has displayed a distressingly tin ear and shows a contempt for these women whose lives are under inordinate social pressures, l might add for the most part dominated by men. Contemptibly he in turn has capitalized on and prostituted this woman yet again, because he certainly will have paid her. This is no random out door photo shot.

Shame on you Sunday Times for printing such a racialist and sexist photo of a vulnerable black woman whose life at best will be one of poverty and persistent domestic abuse and at worse a slow death from HIV Aids. Would The Sunday Times publish a photo of a male sex worker in such a studio pose or  a naked British white woman found in distressing circumstances.?

I think not.

Do not ask us to believe this voyeuristic predatory photo in some way remedies the abuses suffered by women in developing countries nor in any way alleviates or illuminates the dept of human / woman  misery that is found on the streets of Moresby, Papua New Guinea

I think the Sunday Times magazine and Brent Stirton owe an apology to your readers and especially women every where

Yours faithfully

Trina Bohan Tyrie

29 Regent Terrace

Edinburgh EH7 5BS


Skype trina.bohan.tyrie

0131 778398112 H/p

0131 6220897


26 thoughts on “The UK Sunday Times & Brent Stirton Come Out With a Winner

  1. All I can say is OMG…… poor woman, she probably doesn’t realize that the image of her can be reproduced many times over for various other purposes now that it has found it’s way onto the world wide web.

  2. Hmmm well, looks like its allot harder to fight this than I thought. So I wrote to the UK Press Complaints Commission and this is the reply I got:

    Dear Mr Narokobi

    Thank you for writing to the Press Complaints Commission.

    The PCC deals with complaints about possible breaches by newspapers and magazines of their own Code of Practice. A copy of the Code of Practice can be accessed using this web link: .

    As you will see, the Code does not cover matters of taste or offensiveness. This is because the PCC recognises that newspapers must have editorial freedom to publish what they choose so long as the rights of individuals are not compromised by their content. Therefore, provided the stringent terms of the industry’s own Code of Practice – designed especially to protect the individual – are not breached, the PCC cannot, and would not wish, to place any limits on editorial selection. If the PCC were to make the very subjective judgment as to whether material is ‘tasteless’ or ‘offensive’, it would be assuming the role of moral arbiter, which is ultimately to say censor. Instead, most editors are aware of what is and is not acceptable to their readership and, if miscalculations are made on this score, market forces will generally dictate they are not repeated.

    Your complaint appears to concern a question of taste and offensiveness rather than a breach of a specific clause of the Code. I do not think we will therefore be able to help you on this occasion.

    If, however, you believe you have a complaint under the Code of Practice please write to us again by 18 April.

    Further information about the complaints process can be accessed using this web link:

    Information about our service commitments to complainants can be accessed using this web link:

    Further information about the PCC can be found on our website .

    Yours sincerely

    Simon Yip

  3. So my complaint has to fit within the Code of Practice below for any action to be made.


    (Click here to download the Code of Practice as a PDF document)

    The Press Complaints Commission is charged with enforcing the following Code of Practice which was framed by the newspaper and periodical industry and was ratified by the PCC on 01 August 2007.


    All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards. The Code, which includes this preamble and the public interest exceptions below, sets the benchmark for those ethical standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public’s right to know. It is the cornerstone of the system of self-regulation to which the industry has made a binding commitment.

    It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest.

    It is the responsibility of editors and publishers to apply the Code to editorial material in both printed and online versions of publications. They should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists, in printed and online versions of publications.

    Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.

    1 Accuracy

    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.

    iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

    iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

    2 Opportunity to reply

    A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

    3 *Privacy

    i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.

    ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent.

    Note – Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    4 *Harassment

    i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

    ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.

    iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

    5 Intrusion into grief or shock

    i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
    *ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.

    6 *Children

    i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

    ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

    iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.

    iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child’s interest.

    v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

    7 *Children in sex cases

    1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.

    2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child –

    i) The child must not be identified.

    ii) The adult may be identified.

    iii) The word “incest” must not be used where a child victim might be identified.

    iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

    8 *Hospitals

    i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.

    ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.

    9 *Reporting of Crime

    (i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

    (ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

    10 *Clandestine devices and subterfuge

    i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.

    ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

    11 Victims of sexual assault

    The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.

    12 Discrimination

    i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

    ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

    13 Financial journalism

    i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.

    ii) They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.

    iii) They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.

    14 Confidential sources

    Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

    15 Witness payments in criminal trials

    i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness – or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness – should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

    This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.

    *ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.

    *iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement.

    16 *Payment to criminals

    i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

    ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.

    The public interest

    There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

    1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:
    i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
    ii) Protecting public health and safety.
    iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

    2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.

    3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors to demonstrate fully how the public interest was served.

    4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.

    5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.

  4. Does anyone know who the lady is or where she is from?

    Manu, the way I see it is for the poor lady in the pose to sue UK Sunday Times and Brent Stirton for a good six figure sum for humiliating her in a nude photo published and circulated widely, which I would assume the initial intention was for a private photo shoot that would not be publicized as such.

    Imagine how demeaning it would be for her if the UK Sunday Times was circulated in PNG. I don’t think that was her intention and is tantamount to a breach of privacy and contract when the photo was taken.

    Also the UK Sunday Times and Brent Stirton are making a profit out of that innocent image and certainly part of the proceeds should go to the lady.

    Somebody tell her she has the right to sue…and for a big amount. If Madonna can sue for millions for a private wedding photo leaked to the press and Carla Bruni (the French President’s wife) can sue for the unauthorised use of their image, why can’t the poor lady?

    My 2 toea tingting!

  5. Solo, before “this lady” contemplates suing the UK Sunday Times and Brent Stirton for that elusive 6 figure sum, she will definitely have to answer to the RPNGC and the Courts of this country first!! However we argue the artistic meaning of this photo, it is porn. And the Censorship Act of this country has to be enforced. She knowingly participated in this photo shoot (could have been induced) but the fact of the matter is some precedent has to be set or else future exploitation of PNGeans will be normalised!!!

    One toea comment bl mi!

  6. Kava I haven’t had a chance to see the Censorship Act, but if ‘this lady’s’ actions constitute an offence under the Act, where does Brent Stirton stand for taking the photograph in PNG’s jurisdiction?

  7. Manu, the same process the RPNGC are purportedly using in the investigations over the East New Britain porn saga. establish the facts and suspects involved, and if there are foreigners involved (in the ENB case, the one-time Melbourne teacher), work with the Australian government to extradite the suspect to stand trial in PNG. that is too ambitious in the case of Brent Stirton, given his profession as a journalist (justify his actions on the basis of consensual act). extraditing Stirton will also depend on the UK authorities and how they percieve their own (reputedly, winner of countless journalism recognitions) being subjected to the legal proceedings of a “politically insignificant” player in the world….

    one toea comments!

  8. Well just because he has a couple of awards doesn’t exempt him, although yes his intent may have been from a reporting angle as proven by the fact that he had it published in a weekly rather than in a porn magazine.

  9. yeah, i was inferring at the fact that his government (Scotish) will do their best to protect him. as well, anything that will set a bad precedent for their professional people doing their jobs overseas will be defended at any cost! seriously, we will not get to that stage, given the PNG’s government ineptness in the present ENB porn saga!

  10. Okay guys here’s an update, The Sunday Times magazine replied below:

    Dear Trina

    Very many thanks for your letter concerning the photograph of the Papua New Guinean prostitute which we published in our special Spectrum focusing on the country, on April 5.

    I was sorry to hear that you were offended by the woman’s nakedness. You must understand, however, that it is the job of the photojournalist to accurately record what he or she sees – not to gloss over unpleasant facts.

    This particular photographer, Brent Stirton, is highly experienced, very well respected, and in turn he strongly respects the people he takes pictures of – and takes time to get to know them and their situation in some depth beforehand. I have been in touch with Brent, following your letter, and he has has this to say:
    “HIV issues in PNG are currently at 11 percent and rising. I worked with social workers who introduced me to HIV positive people, Aids orphans, and a number of brothels in the capital. We did this for a few days until we were familiar faces. Of the girls I spoke to one agreed that I could photograph her in her place of work. She spoke good English and I repeatedly told her that my work is for publication. She said that she understood and we took some quick photographs. No money was paid to her: the only money I spent in this situation was the usual drinks and food for a couple of days making everyone comfortable with my presence.

    “I have worked on issues regarding HIV in 10 countries, working with sex workers in every one of those places. I find it sad when the point is missed in an image like this. In the case of PNG, prostitution is a new phenomenon and it is on the increase. This would have been extremely rare in PNG’s recent past. With progress have come problems. Ignorance regarding the insidious nature of HIV is what I am attempting to talk about in this image.”

    I hope this allays your concerns that there was any sort of exploitation involved, and I’m sure you will agree that an issue such as HIV, which affects vulnerable women and children, should be highlighted in order to raise awareness. If we had been seeking to sensationalise or shock in any way, it’s unlikely we would have devoted a full spread of the Magazine to the beautiful image of an elderly Kalawari lady in her canoe. The shot of the prostitute was only one out of 14, which included children playing and men going hunting – the full gamut of life in a beautiful country that also has its troubles.

    In answer to your other question – yes, we would indeed publish a similar photo of a male sex worker or a naked British white woman in distressing circumstances, if there was sufficient editorial reason to do so. If you look back over the Magazine’s 47-year history you will find numerous images that are distressing to look at. It is our responsibility as a serious news magazine to show the negative side of life as well as the positive, and to document what we believe to be important issues here and abroad, which we feel to be worthy of attention. We are unusual in continuing to do this in a media which is increasingly celebrity-dominated.

    Once again, thank you for your feedback, and I hope you will continue to read and enjoy The Sunday Times Magazine.

    With best wishes,

    Kathy Brewis
    Commissioning Editor
    The Sunday Times Magazine


    and Trina replied:

    Dear Kathy

    Thanks for your reply

    Please allow me to correct your comment I am not offended by her nakedness, l am offended by the portrayal of her by Brent Stirton. This photo is sensationalist, the carefully lit studio photo suggests a woman who is patently self-conscious by her frontal nakedness.

    One does not have to travel far to find a sex worker with his or her clothes on in PNG

    I like most of your readers would wonder what this middle class soft core pornographic photo has to do with a very dubious connection he is trying to make with the PNG HIV epidemic.

    And yes his other careful photos are in deed and rightly the fodder of Travel catalogues and Third World photo exhibitions. This one not!
    Brent may indeed feel sad, Sadly l believe this widely travelled Brent Stirton to have missed the point, even if he could admit prostitution exists everywhere and in deed has been around for a long time in PNG…. HIV Aids highlights it!
    …… however I ask him to pick up his game here on behalf of the exploited women of the world. Not to exploit them.

    Perhaps the Sunday times will find me somewhat out of step here, accepting that soft porn images are the norm here in the UK we do at least have redress, l challenge the Sunday times to acknowledge this photo,… hiding under an” issue” umbrella could have reverberations with in her own community, that you can only guess at.

    Sunday Times we expect you to lead …not reflect yesterdays images

    Trina Bohan Tyrie

  11. Can anyone direct me to the written article in relation to the photo published, I am unable to find the article.


  12. Would also like to add:

    There are currently some photos which are certainly porno, at a PNG web site promoting PNG tourism. There is also a porno youtube video link on display.

    These photos uploaded at the tokpisin site are not only in extreme bad taste, but are mostly likely uploaded without permission of the ladies and their names and phone numbers are displayed.

    The site owner doesn’t seem to care and the site is not a good promotion of tourism in PNG.

    There should be more out rage that these photos have remained at the site since Jan 09.

  13. We need to get Brent to defend his photograph? I don’t see the purpose….as a black woman i don’t feel any sense of culture or identity – not even emancipation expressed in this…it’s pointless porn!

  14. Manuella, saving the world – one photograph at a time…it’d be interesting to collate pictures from travelers, residents etc and publish a sort of annual snapbook?

  15. This is outrageous. Having a Papua New Guinean woman displayed naked on a foreign newspaper should be considered a crime as making porn is illegal in this country. On the other hand, the photographer didn’t even stop to think how the woman would feel about it. She could be someone’s mother, sister, daughter, aunt, grandmother and wife.

  16. Are you so tied up in your “moral” image of pornography, that you can’t read the message here? This lady is just an average person, not a model, nor is it an almost (gyneacologically?) correct, legs splayed picture, like that which is found on porn sites.

    My first reaction was to feel sorry, not just for her, but for a world which forced her into such circumstances.

    I am as equally diminished, by the oppression, circumstances, or tyranny, suffered by my fellow man.

    Yu stap gut sinabada……Ralph

  17. Sampela kwestin oa tripela.
    Do you find all paintings of nudes, to be pornographic? As too statues, like David et al?If so, I pity you.
    Or is this different because she is a black woman?
    If so you may be suffering from inverse racism, or being patronising.

    Bigots of the world – – declaim……Ralph.

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