It's the story that the journalistic elite would rather just go away. In the aftermath of Reuters' admission that one of its photographers, Adnan Hajj, had manipulated two war images from Lebanon after bloggers smoked out his crude Photoshop alterations, and all 920 of his Reuters photos were pulled, evidence of far more troubling photo staging and media deception in the Middle East continues to pour in.
Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs (littlegreenfootballs.com) calls it "fauxtography."
One of Hajj's photos was an iconic image of a dusty dead child with a clean blue pacifier clipped to his shirt, paraded by a corpse handler at the site of an Israeli airstrike in Qana, Lebanon. Mainstream journalists have sneered at bloggers' suspicions, first raised at EU Referendum (eureferendum.blogspot.com), that some of the gruesome photos from that scene may have been staged. Washington Post photographer Michael Robinson-Chavez, who was at Qana, huffed: "Everyone was dead, many of them children. Nothing was set up." But last week, a German television station aired damning video footage from the scene showing a lead propaganda director (dubbed the "Green Helmet Guy") positioning a young boy's corpse, yanking it from an ambulance, placing it on two different stretchers for the cameras and pushing bystanders out of the way for clearer shots.
This Lebanese version of horror film director Wes Craven was identified by the Associated Press in a softball profile as "Salam Daher," who told the reporter, "I am just a civil defense worker. I have done this job all my life." To clear-eyed readers, that's an inculpatory statement, not an exculpatory one. How many more "jobs" has Daher overseen? And how many more media stage managers like Daher are out there?
Not all photographers overseas have their heads in the sand. Last week, Middle East-based photographer Bryan Denton, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, revealed on the professional photography website Light Stalkers (lightstalkers.org) that he had observed routine staging of photos -- and even corpse-digging -- by Lebanese stringers: