Reuters Admits Faking Photos, Still in Denial

Posted: Aug 09, 2006 12:14 AM

This weekend was not a good one for Reuters.

First, it was revealed by Charles Johnson of the Little Green Footballs blog that a photo showing bomb damage in Beirut by a local Muslim stringer, Adnan Hajj, was doctored. Reuters promptly recalled the image and fired the reporter.

Since the original unaltered photo revealed that there really was a large explosion being documented by Hajj, Reuters accepted his excuse that the picture was only altered to "remove some dust marks".

Accusations that the photo was “sexed-up” to make Israeli damage of Beirut seem worse were dismissed. The photo was treated as an isolated incident by Reuters. It wasn't.

Prompted by Charles Johnson's expose, a reader led me to another Reuters photo taken by Adnan Hajj. The photo purported to be of an Israeli F-16 firing "missiles" at a Lebanese village.

That photo was also a fake. The original photo actually showed an Israeli plane firing a defensive flare. The flare had been labeled a "missile" by the reporter and then duplicated several times using computer software to make it seem that multiple "missiles" were being "fired" on a Lebanese "village".

In other words, the F-16 which Reuters purports to show firing missiles at a Lebanese village, was taking defensive measures.

This time the "dust marks" excuse could not fly.

When confronted by a second obvious forgery, Reuters was forced to retract all 920 photos produced by Hajj.

But Reuters is still in denial about several things.

First, Reuters retraction order makes it seem as if the second photo was discovered by an internal investigation. An internal discovery of a second faked photo makes it appear that Reuters is a responsible and objective news organization which takes seriously accusations of impropriety. It is not.

Second, and more importantly, Reuters is in denial that there is an overtly anti-Israeli bias in its reports and their accompanying photos.

Why is it that no one at Reuters caught these two obvious forgeries? It doesn't seem too far fetched to suggest that editors do not scrutinize closely those things that they already believe to be true about Israel. The photos showed what Reuters already knew-- namely, that it is Israel that is responsible for so much death and damage in the present Middle East conflict.

Which is why Reuters is still in denial about many other photos which are not outright forgeries, but which appear to be staged?

Such as photos of Korans burning. Such as the bodies of children being paraded before reporters for hours.

What Reuters and others in the mainstream media do not disclose about all of their photos from Southern Lebanon is that no reporter is allowed in the area without Hezbollah approval. Even worse, many of the photos of Israeli "atrocities" are actually taken at organized tours put on by Hezbollah.

The images are real, but the photos are neither spontaneous nor do they tell the entire story.

Without the two forgeries it would be tempting to characterize the reporters at these staged events as victims of Hezbollah censorship. With the forgeries, it is now clear that many of these reporters are participants in a Hezbollah propaganda campaign against Israel.

Without the forgeries it would be hard to swallow the notion that the local Arab reporters employed by the larger news organizations were neutral and unbiased in this war. With the forgeries, it is clear that at least some are actually combatants and partisans on the propaganda front.

Reuters won't see this. Reuters can't see this. To the editors at Reuters, Israel is the cause of the miserable condition innocent Lebanese civilians find themselves in. Photos showing what they already believe to be true will not be scrutinized.

We seldom question that which we already believe.

So, while Reuters is frantically implementing new procedures meant to separate forged photos from authentic ones, do not expect to see much change in the content of those photos. We will still see the bodies of children. We will still see captions blaming Israeli aggression for their deaths.

Reuters does not need a new editorial process. What Reuters needs is moral clarity. Given their track record, don't hold your breath that it will come any time soon.

Dr. Rusty Shackleford has been blogging since 2004, and is proprietor of The Jawa Report.