The mayor of Vilnius acknowledged Tuesday distributing a deliberately altered picture to The Associated Press and other news organizations intended to dramatize his anti-parking campaign, an image that then was published in newspapers around world.
The AP withdrew the photo, transmitted on Aug. 3, and notified its customers of the breech Monday, as soon as it discovered the deception.
Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas' office sent a photo showing him riding an armored personnel carrier, from which two other people were erased.
An accompanying video of the public relations stunt, also distributed by the mayor's office, clearly shows the two other men.
The Associated Press policy is not to accept any photos that are altered. In this case the mayor's office did not inform the AP that it has doctored the photo. The AP has since removed the photo from its systems and archives.
"It is completely inappropriate to provide photoshopped images to media companies as it compromises our credibility and misleads our readers," said Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography.
According to AP's electronic photo policy, only retouching to eliminate dust and scratches is permitted.
Irma Juskenaite, spokeswoman for Zuokas, said that Swedish producers Mackan Edlund and Erik Estrand rode in the vehicle along with the mayor as it flattened a Mercedez-Benz on a downtown Vilnius street.
"The photo shows the mayor without Erik and Mackan to draw attention to the issue of illegal parking without extraneous people in the photo," Juskenaite told The Associated Press on Tuesday in a written response.
The scene was filmed for a Swedish television show "99 Things To Do Before You Die." It is expected to air in November.
The video clip appeared on YouTube soon after it was filmed and immediately became a sensation.
(This version CORRECTS the spelling of Vilnius in the short headline.)