‘Why Was He Videoing Us?’: The ethics and politics of audio-visual propaganda in child trafficking and human trafficking campaigns

Samuel Okyere, Nana Agyeman, Emmanuel Saboro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
271 Downloads (Pure)


This paper is a critical reflection on the ethical and political issues associated with the creation and dissemination of unsettling images and videos for child trafficking and human trafficking abolitionist campaigns. The paper acknowledges efforts by anti-trafficking campaigners to address accusations of poverty porn, stigmatisation, and sensationalism directed at such visual propaganda. However, it also observes that these remedial measures have had very little impact. Anti-child trafficking and anti-human trafficking campaigns are still dominated by sensational spectacles of victimhood, abjection, pain, and suffering. The paper attributes this inertia to campaigners’ fears that radical deviation from the use of emotive or ‘biting’ visuals may undermine their established narratives, campaign goals, and even credibility. It supports this conclusion using path dependence theory and the findings of research with residents of remote island communities on the Lake Volta in Ghana who have been the focus of extensive anti-child-trafficking raids and campaigns over the last decade.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Pages (from-to)47-68
Number of pages22
JournalAnti-Trafficking Review
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are immensely grateful to members of the European Research Council (ERC)-funded project, Modern Marronage: The Pursuit and Practice of Freedom in the Contemporary World (ERC ADG 788563); Julia O?Connell Davidson, Angelo Martins Jnr, Pankhuri Agarwal, and Jose Nafefe for their generosity, expertise, and extremely helpful comments on early drafts of this paper. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and publication of this essay. However, ongoing work on the aforementioned ERC project has been instrumental in shaping our thoughts for the essay, and for that we are grateful.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. All rights reserved.


  • Abolitionism
  • Ghana
  • Trafficking
  • Child Rights
  • Rescue Work/ethics
  • NGOs
  • child labour


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