Skip to comments.The Reuters Photo Scandal
Posted on 08/09/2006 10:10:49 PM PDT by Coleus
This is an untouched version of the original photo before it was digitally altered. Reuters released it on August 6 when they admitted the doctored photo was indeed fraudulent, and announced they were no longer going to work with Adnan Hajj, the photographer who had Photoshopped the image. No word on what punishment the editors who released the obviously fake photo to the world would receive. Hajj used the Photoshop "clone" tool to copy portions of the smoke-column and repeatedly paste it into the sky, to make the smoke look larger and darker -- though his manipulations really didn't change the effect of the photo to any great degree. His claims that he accidentally added the extra smoke when he was merely trying to remove some dust flecks from the picture are so absurd as to barely even merit comment.
The other instance of digital photo doctoring was discovered by Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report on August 6. The original Reuters caption for this photo was "An Israeli F-16 warplane fires missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon." As Shackleford pointed out, first of all, those are not missiles depicted in the photo -- they're defensive flares. But more importantly, the photo had been doctored to show three flares, when in fact there had only been one.
EU Referendum pointed out that if the time stamps on the photos are taken at face value, then the rescue operation becomes even more farcical, with bodies unnecessarily put on display for hours, though the news agencies later claimed that the time stamps do not necessarily reflect the actual time each photo was taken. Lost in the argument over this detail is the fact that the photos were widely doubted even before the time stamp issue, and that even a casual glance at the photo series from Reuters and the other agencies reveals that, in whatever order they were taken, the images seem to reveal at the very least a partly staged scenario, in which unprofessional "rescue workers" seem more concerned with how they and the bodies appear on camera than they do with conducting an actual rescue operation. These doubts were compounded when additional photos of the mysterious "Mr. Green Helmet" were found from other rescue operations in other parts of Lebanon (such as here, for example), at which he similarly seemed to pose for the camera. Many bloggers speculated that he is in fact a Hezbollah "set designer" and media relations officer whose job it is to milk maximum propaganda value from each photo opportunity, with the cooperation of willing photographers, who must witness his shenanigans in person, but not report on them. Ynet News had an excellent article summarizing the different aspects of the Qana photo opportunity.
Another bit of possible staging was uncovered by Cathy Brooks, a reader of Power Line in a series of photos also taken by Hajj and released by Reuters. As the full series of photos displayed at Power Line shows, what are supposed to be real-time shots of "citizens" running across the Qasmiya Bridge, which had been damaged by Israel, must in fact be something else altogether. For not only are the two men running pointlessly back and forth across the same bridge, but one of them magically becomes a "civil defense worker" in the next caption.
But things start to get completely bizarre when in a later photo, the exact same damaged car seems to be quite a distance away, once again on its roof (and notice the other photographer taking a close-up of the car). However, Seerak, an astute photo expert on Little Green Footballs, pointed out in this detailed comment that the photographer may been been alternating between powerful telephoto and wide-angle lenses, which produce only the appearance of the car being moved. If so, then this example belongs more in the "false and misleading captions" section than in this section. The foreshortening is so extreme that it's hard to believe it could be produced simply by different lenses, but it may be possible.
Power Line's analysis finishes with a final photograph of a completely different damaged bridge, which is also identified as the Qasmiya Bridge. The only conclusion one can reach upon seeing these images is that the entire scenario on the first bridge is a fabrication, that the "citizens" are being stage managed to run back and forth, and that the bridge in question was just a convenient theatrical set for the photo shoot, and probably wasn't even the bridge named in the caption. Incredibly, in response to the initial questions about the Qana pictures, Reuters issued a statement that completely denied any of its photos were staged, stating, "Reuters and other news organisations reviewed those images and have all rejected allegations that the photographs were staged." But their denial has fallen on deaf ears in the blogosphere, as more and more seemingly staged photos are discovered every day.
3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.
Many bloggers have stated that some photo-stringers in Lebanon are not merely willing dupes for Hezbollah propagandists, but occasionally even participate in the staging of scenes themselves. Though this form of fraud is much more difficult to prove, several examples have cropped up of vignettes that just seemed "too good to be true" for them to be naturally occurring scenes. This Reuters image, for example, which was found in various media outlets (and preserved on the Bagel Blogger site), came with this caption: "A mannequin adorned with a wedding dress stands near the site of an Israeli air raid in Qana July 31, 2006, where more than 54 women and children were killed a day earlier. REUTERS/Sharif Karim (LEBANON)." C'mon -- an explosion large enough to knock down a building happened just a few yards away, and an entire day has passed with hundreds of rescuers and media members and everyone else running around, and after all that, a mannequin in a wedding dress is discovered standing right next to the bomb site, as if posing in front of the wreckage? And that no one noticed it until then? A much more likely explanation is that the photographer -- or someone helping him -- found the mannequin elsewhere, and placed it exactly where he wanted for that "perfect shot."
Dozens of blogs have pointed out similar questions about other artificial-seeming scenes that smacked of the photographers' handiwork. The most comical of these is "The Passion of the Toys" at Slublog:
All of these pictures were taken by Reuters photographers in Lebanon, except for the first Mickey Mouse image which was taken by an AP photographer. While it may be possible that these photographers all just happened to stumble on toys and stuffed animals perfectly positioned for maximum emotive response, the cumulative effect of all the pictures together (along with others visible on Slublog) suggests that some if not all of the photographers moved the toys to be better positioned for a good photo.
But this is not a definitely conclusive example of fraud -- it's almost impossible to prove that a photographer moved an object to his benefit. Instead, the images just feel faked.
4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.
Power Line again drew attention to another form of photojournalistic fraud, this time possibly committed by the Reuters editors themselves. This photo, as Power Line pointed out, was captioned, ""Journalists are shown by a Hizbollah guerrilla group the damage caused by Israeli attacks on a Hizbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, July 24 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters)." But look at the next photo below.
Here, the caption says, "A Lebanese woman looks at the sky as she walks past a building flattened during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut's suburbs August 5, 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters)." But a cursory glance shows that it's the exact same destroyed buildings in both photos. If they were already destroyed on July 24, they couldn't have been destroyed on August 5, especially since the damage is identical in both pictures. It's quite obvious that photos of the same scene were re-released to make it appear as if Israeli bombing raids were continuously hitting Beirut, when in fact Reuters was just recycling the same damage over and over. Further demolishing the credibility of this photograph is yet a different image of the same woman by AFP, this time "inspecting the destruction," in a scene in which she is obviously cooperating with the photographer -- contradicting the implication of the Reuters photo in which she is supposed to be just a passerby.
But, as was revealed in this article on The Shape of Days site, captions for news photos are mostly written by the editorial staff, with the photographer supplying only the basic facts. It was up to the Reuters editors to properly caption this photo, and if it was misattributed, it is entirely their responsibility.
In the next example, as discovered by the Drinking from Home blog, a Lebanese woman somehow had her house destroyed twice, two weeks apart, by the Israelis. In this first photo, Reuters claims, "A Lebanese woman wails after looking at the wreckage of her apartment, in a building, that was demolished by the Israeli attacks in southern Beirut July 22, 2006. REUTERS/Issam Kobeisi."
But wait! Here she is again, in a photo supplied by AP: "A Lebanese woman reacts at the destruction after she came to inspect her house in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, after Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed the area overnight." As Drinking from Home points out, it's definitely the same woman. The photo captions, supplied by two different news agencies, contradict each other: one says her home was destroyed on July 22; the other on August 5. Which leads one to question whether the woman had anything to do with the building at all, or if she was just asked to pose in front of it for drama's sake. Either way, the editor's captions are necessarily untrue, since her home obviously couldn't have been demolished twice. The photos may or may not be authentic, but at least one of the captions is a falsehood. Ynet News also featured an article about the discrepancy.
A zombietime reader named Paul writes in to say that this photo that appeared on the cover of the July 22 edition of the London magazine The Spectator as an illustration for this article seems to shows the exact same woman yet again, wailing for the third time over a completely different destroyed home.
A close-up of the somewhat low-resolution image appears to faintly show the distinctive scar on the woman's left cheek, confirming it is her despite the different outfit. As Paul writes, "Once again we see the -- unmistakable -- eyebrowless Wailing Woman coming home only to find her third Beirut apartment destroyed. Different location of course, and this time she is wearing an up-market outfit: aqua silk scarf, checked coat, sling bag over her shoulder and holding car keys. She has apparently just got out of her car, seen the damage, slung the bag over her shoulder -- as you do when you discover your apartment is no more -- and gone for it, the double hand Heavenwards Wail."
If indeed it is the same woman -- which seems quite likely, though we can't say with 100% certainty -- she may simply be an amateur photographer's model taken around to various sites to act distraught in front of different damaged buildings.
These pictures of a Hezbollah gunman -- as pointed out by Hot Air, jester_6 and Riehl World View -- not only appeared on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, but was captioned, "A Hezbollah gunman aims his AK 47 at a fire caused by an explosion in Kfarshima, near Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, July 17, 2006. Lebanese TV stations broadcast video pictures Monday claiming to be an Israeli military aircraft falling to the ground in the area, but Israeli military said no aircraft was shot down over Beirut and there was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the explosion." The photos were taken by both Reuters and AP photographers.
But a close-up reveals that the scene is entirely counterfeit: the fire, as the gunman and the photographers must have known, was nothing more than tires burning in a garbage dump. The captions conveyed the "fact" that the gunman was in a dangerous situation, ready to fire at a downed Israeli aircraft. It's not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Hezbollah set the fire themselves, to provide a dramatic backdrop for an iconic propaganda image.
What to make of all this? As is demonstrated on this page, Reuters has committed not just one instance of fraud, and not just one type of fraud, but four distinct categories of fraud. Now, of course there is a real war going on, and there is real damage, and authentically tragic scenes. No one is denying that. So, with all the actual honest footage of unstaged war imagery floating around, why is Reuters resorting to supplementing its coverage with obviously fake photos? Several theories have been posited in opinion pieces since the scandal broke. Here's a summary of the various possibilities.
Theory A: The Reuters editorial staff is sympathetic to the aims of Hezbollah, and is using propagandistic images exaggerating Israeli violence to increase world pressure on Israel to stop its attacks, thereby giving Hezbollah a chance to regroup, and claim moral superiority.Stage magicians sometimes used what is called the "smoke-and-mirrors" technique, in which chaotic and distracting effects on stage draw the audience's attention away from the magician's sleight-of-hand. According to Theory A, Reuters is resorting to "smoke-and-mirrors" by taking advantage of the chaos of war, and the chaos of the international media coverage, to promulgate staged or contradictory news reports. Working on the assumption that no one person would ever see enough different media outlets to notice the fraud, which only becomes apparent when comparing different images which are published in a wide variety of media outlets, Reuters has slipped the false reports into the news stream. Doss, a commenter on Little Green Footballs, made a very well researched comment showing the systematic bias in Reuters editorial captions to photos of the war in Lebanon, with links documenting each point. According to Doss, "Every time, if an Israeli is hurt, it was a "rocket" that did it; if a Lebanese/Hizb is hurt, "Israel" did it. Humans hurt Lebanese, but inanimate objects hurt Israelis, according to Reuters." This clearly points to an anti-Israel bias on the part of Reuters.
Theory B: The stringers employed by Reuters are sympathetic to Hezbollah, and successfully duped the Reuters editors into publishing propaganda.To accept Theory B, you'd have to conclude that the Reuters editorial staff are cataclysmically incompetent, and were unable to notice numerous frauds so obvious that "untrained bloggers" could easily spot them.
Theory C: The stringers employed by Reuters simply wanted to make a name for themselves, and resorted to fraud to obtain the most spectacular images, regardless of their political outlook.Again, Theory C requires an almost unbelievable level of incompetence on the part of the Reuters editorial staff. This theory is also doubtful because the propagandistic nature of the photos and captions is almost always anti-Israel.
Theory D: Reuters photographers and editors are intimidated by Hezbollah, and publish Hezbollah's propaganda out of fear for their lives.This is an intriguing theory. There have been reports coming out of Lebanon that reporters are indeed being bullied and intimidated. A new report reveals that Hezbollah has copies of all journalists' passports and that they threaten those who tell the truth. Michael Totten reported last year how he was at first charmed by the Hezbollah media representative -- a relationship which suddenly turned to fear when he was bullied and threatened once Hezbollah realized he wasn't going to repeat their lies. And CNN's Nic Robertson shockingly admitted that his own news reports were stage-managed by Hezbollah in an interview on July 23. In it, Robertson said,
SUCH a nice wrap-up of the "fauxtography" scandal - very blogworthy!
It appears that this has unleashed a world of discussion among true photographers and their dopplegangers, digital manipulators. Many great photographers are paying the price for these frauds...
It is a crime against the memory of true journalism.
thanks, it is well done. We shouldn't forget who we are up against. We have enemies both foreign and domestic, including the NY Slimes and the many hollywood and sactamonious liberals, including bill clintoon and Hitlery, in the usa who side with the terrorists. these videos should be shown every day.
Side with? They are terrorists.
Five different photos of the same woman. She has used up her 15 minutes of fame.
is she one of the promised 72 virgins?
The media is becoming a joke over there.
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