Posted on May 25, 2022

Stop Using Images of Black People to Illustrate Monkeypox Stories

Alexander Onukwue, Quartz, May 24, 2022

At least 92 monkeypox cases have been recorded in 12 countries across Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia since the World Health Organization (WHO) started receiving reports of infections on May 13.

But in the news media, the face of the outbreak is decidedly Black and African.

From Reuters and the BBC, to Sky News and ABC News, international outlets have used (in some cases, decades-old) images of Black people to illustrate their stories and tweets about the spread of monkeypox. African journalists and media watchers haven’t taken kindly to the trend.


The WHO says monkeypox, which has no current treatments, is primarily found in west and central Africa. While there have been previous cases emanating from Africa to the US, part of current global concern is that monkeypox is spreading in places that are not endemic for the virus.


These editorial choices are now under fire, perhaps best captured in a statement by the Foreign Press Association in Kenya, a group for journalists covering Africa for global outlets.

“We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege and immunity to other races,” the association’s signed statement read.

“What is the convenience of using such images to tell the world how Europe and America are reeling from the outbreak of monkeypox? Is the media in the business of ‘preserving White purity’ through ‘Black criminality or culpability’?”

This episode ties into broader grievances of questionable western media representation of Africa, a tendency to frame the continent as always diseased or battling disaster. {snip}