Unicef New Zealand has distanced itself from the All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams after he tweeted graphic images of dead children shortly after visiting a camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Williams tweeted two graphic images of dead children on Tuesday evening with the caption: â€œWhat did these children do to deserve this? This summer share a thought for the innocent lives lost everyday in war.â€
He visited refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon earlier this month as a guest of Unicef New Zealand.
Unicef New Zealand spokesman Patrick Rose said the organisation would never publicise â€œvery disturbing and upsettingâ€ images such as those tweeted by Williams.
â€œThis is not a Unicef process. We didnâ€™t take those images, he wasnâ€™t with us when those images were taken, he didnâ€™t take those images, he didnâ€™t see that on his trip to Lebanon with us, and certainly he didnâ€™t consult with us before posting those images.
â€œWeâ€™re as surprised â€“ and I think disturbed â€“ as everyone by seeing these images posted.â€
Williamsâ€™ post drew a critical reaction from some of his Twitter followers.
â€œAlthough I sympathise w ur reasons for posting this, itâ€™s not wise. It can be a trigger for some pple. Also young followers,â€ one said.
â€œToo late if theyâ€™ve already seen these pictures. He should at least have included a trigger warning,â€ agreed another.
â€œInsensitive. Heâ€™s a rugbyplayer w young followers who follow him because heâ€™s their sports hero, not for politics,â€ tweeted a third.
But many others supported Williamsâ€™s decision, arguing it was important to confront the reality of life in conflict zones.
Unicef follows reporting guidelines informed by the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which states children have a right to privacy and control over how they are portrayed by the media, including in death.
Rose said Unicef did not have any control over Williamsâ€™s activity on social media and had not asked him to delete the tweet.
Williams travelled to Lebanon as a guest of Unicef to test a potential relationship, but there is no contract between them.
Unicef New Zealand executive director Vivien Maidaborn, who visited the refugee camps with Williams, said his tweeting the photos suggested he was in the process of â€œfiguring out what he can doâ€ to help.
She said she had not spoken with him since he posted the tweet, which was his â€œpersonal decisionâ€.
â€œItâ€™s not something that Unicef would do, and if he was working in the capacity as our ambassador, we wouldnâ€™t allow it.
â€œFrom the outside, this looks like somebody who is close to war for the first time in his life, and heâ€™s just working through the horror of it and how to make sense of it.â€
Maidaborn said Unicef would meet Williams at the end of January to discuss potentially furthering their relationship.