Ugandan climate activist hits out at ‘racist’ media after being cropped out of picture with white peers

Colin Drury
The (uncropped) photo of climate activists Vanessa Nakate, Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille: AP

A Ugandan climate activist who was cropped out of a photo taken with four white campaigners has accused the media of racism.

Vanessa Nakate was removed from the image taken at Davos, where she had been talking about about global warming.

Reacting to the edited image on Twitter, she said: “You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent.”

And in a video statement, the 23-year-old added that, for the first time in her life, she now “understood the definition of the word racism”.

The cropped image was made available to news outlets across the world after being taken by the Associated Press news agency following a press call in the Swiss town.

It said it had removed Ms Nakate only to improve the picture’s composition and it had not acted with “ill intent”.

David Ake, director of photography, said: “The photographer was trying to get a picture out fast under a tight deadline and cropped it purely on composition grounds because he thought the building in the background was distracting.

“When we went back to add more pictures to the report, which we almost always do when we are working under very tight deadlines, we added additional pictures with different crops.”

But in her 10-minute video, which has since gone viral, Ms Nakate said she had been left devastated by the image.

“I don’t feel ok right now,” she said. “The world is so cruel.”

The founder of the Rise Up Movement added: “We don’t deserve this. Africa is the least emitter of carbons, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis …You erasing our voices won’t change anything. You erasing our stories won’t change anything.”

Other leading climate activists offered their support.

Greta Thunberg, who was also in the picture, said: “I’m so sorry they did this to you ... you are the last one who would deserve that! We are all so grateful for what you are doing and we all send love and support.”

AP has since replaced the cropped photo with its original. The caption for the new image does not reference the switch.