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Het Reuters fotoschandaal

IMO Blog, 2006

(Gewijzigd 12 aug.)

Het onderstaande artikel van Zombietime geeft een uitgebreid overzicht van de gemanipuleerde foto's die met name persbureau Reuters heeft gemaakt van IsraŽlische bombardementen in Libanon, om deze erger te doen lijken. Deze fraude is door bloggers aan het licht gebracht, en heeft geleid tot het ontslag van een fotograaf door Reuters.

Zoals uit de fotocompilatie blijkt, gaat het niet om ťťn fotograaf of om een paar gemanipuleerde foto's, en ook niet om alleen Reuters. Hierbij moeten dan ook meerdere mensen betrokken zijn (geweest).
Ik geloof niet graag in complottheorieŽn, maar - zoals onderstaand artikel ook betoogt - er moet wel erg veel domheid en onnozelheid in het spel zijn wil dit allemaal 'per ongeluk' zijn gebeurd, of met medeweten van slechts een enkele fotograaf. Het is bovendien raar dat dergelijke fotomanipulaties, net als overigens het aantal doden bij IsraŽlische bombardementen dat meermaals later naar beneden bijgesteld moest worden, allemaal toevallig in het nadeel van IsraŽl werken. Onzorgvuldigheid of pure sensatiezucht zou beide kanten op werken zou je denken. Mijn voorlopige conclusie is dat Reuters en andere media, zich te weinig bewust zijn van de propagandatechnieken van Hezbollah, en de ontslagen fotograaf waarschijnlijk een Hezbollah sympathisant was. Men neemt graag aan hoe erg de schade van IsraŽlische bombardementen is, en stelt hier niet graag vragen over, om niet cynisch en onverschillig voor de vele reŽle ellende over te komen. Het cynisme ligt echter geheel aan de andere kant, zoals ook eerder al bleek uit het schaamteloze gebruik van burgers als menselijk schild.
Een misplaatste visie dat IsraŽl de beste PR heeft en het meest effectief propaganda verspreidt, leidt wellicht tot een blinde vlek voor propaganda van de andere kant.


Dit fotoschandaal roept de vraag op in hoeverre we foto's kunnen vertrouwen. Hoeveel foto's zijn gemanipuleerd of in scŤne gezet zonder dat we dat weten? Het digitale tijdperk heeft het wel erg makkelijk en aanlokkelijk gemaakt om het dramatisch effect te vergroten en wat de fotograaf belangrijk vindt wat extra nadruk te geven. Een vriendin van me die vooral landschappen fotografeert werkt haar foto's geregeld bij; de meeste ansichtkaarten zijn waarschijnlijk bijgewerkt. We zijn hier zo aan gewend dat het nauwelijks nog opvalt. Ook het in scŤne zetten is een veelgebruikte techniek van amateur-fotografen en makers van vakantiekiekjes. Het is wat dat betreft niet zo verbazingwekkend dat dit ook wordt gedaan door mensen die een politieke boodschap willen uitdragen. De Libanese fotograaf wilde waarschijnlijk de wereld laten zien wat IsraŽl zijn land aandoet, wellicht in de hoop dat dit tot scherpe veroordelingen leidt, of tot meer hulp voor de slachtoffers, of beide. Voormalig Midden-Oosten verslaggever Joris Luyendijk, die kritisch staat tegenover IsraŽl, vertelt dat Palestijnen vaak spontaan aanboden 'te poseren' voor internationale persfotografen, om het dramatisch effect te verhogen. Deze mensen hebben er natuurlijk alle belang bij IsraŽl - hun vijand en onderdrukker - in een negatief daglicht te stellen. Ik heb meer dan eens gelezen dat de meeste journalisten in de bezette gebieden meer sympathie hebben voor de Palestijnen dan voor IsraŽl, wat gemakkelijk tot een onkritische houding kan leiden. Deze vooringenomenheid van veel journalisten is wellicht het grootste probleem. Het zou de berichtgeving over het Midden-Oosten conflict - in zowel woord als beeld - zeer ten goede komen als journalisten geselecteerd zouden worden op een evenwichtige en kritische blik naar beide kanten, als zij beseffen dat de zwakkere niet automatisch de moreel betere is, en effectieve propaganda niet alleen uit het hebben van professionele perscentra en officiŽle woordvoerders bestaat. Zoals een high-tech leger een guerrillaoorlog nauwelijks kan winnen, en in verschillende opzichten in het nadeel is, zo is een high-tech PR apparaat allerminst een garantie dat men de propagandaoorlog kan winnen, niet omdat het gelijk aan de andere kant ligt, maar omdat een guerrilla zich tactieken kan veroorloven die een staat zich niet kan permitteren - ook als het moreel in het gelijk staat.

Ik bewonder de scherpe blik van de vele bloggers die dit schandaal aan het licht hebben gebracht, en wiens werk ik hier schaamteloos jat. Ikzelf heb deze blik op foto's niet, en ben sowieso te traag voor dit werk. Ik beperk mij doorgaans bovendien tot analyses en commentaren op het geschreven of gesproken woord.

Een laatste opmerking. Helemaal onderaan staan twee satellietfoto's van Beiroet van voor en van na IsraŽlische bombardementen. Deze doen mij verdomd veel denken aan de satellietfoto's die het Acht Uur Journaal afgelopen maandag toonde met het commentaar erbij dat de vernietiging veel erger is dan velen menen te denken, wat op deze foto's goed te zien zou zijn. Ik vond dit toen al bepaald suggestief, en heb (onder andere) hierover een brief naar het journaal gestuurd. Nu blijkt bovendien dat het effect waarschijnlijk was uitvergroot door de foto voor de bombardementen in kleur, en die erna in grijs te tonen. Waar ik toen ook niet aan dacht, is dat het beide detailfoto's zijn van Beiroet die daardoor suggereren dat de verwoesting een groter deel van de stad betreft dan in werkelijkheid het geval is. Uit een satellietfoto van de gehele stad (onder de detailfoto's), die door IsraŽlische bloggers als reactie op de detailfoto's zijn geplaatst, blijkt dat in feite maar een klein deel van de stad is verwoest. Dit alles onderstreept mijn klacht nog eens dat het journaal suggestief te werk ging.

Hopelijk kan dan nu de fabel de wereld uit dat de westerse media zich door IsraŽlische propaganda laten misleiden.

Met dank aan http://www.zombietime.com/reuters_photo_fraud/


Ratna Pelle




The Reuters Photo Scandal

A Taxonomy of Fraud



A comprehensive overview of the four types of photo fraud
committed by Reuters, August 8, 2006



The recent discovery that the Reuters news agency released a digitally manipulated photograph as an authentic image of the bombing in Beirut has drawn attention to the important topic of bias in the media. But lost in the frenzy over one particular image is an even more devastating fact: that over the last week Reuters has been caught red-handed in an astonishing variety of journalistic frauds in the photo coverage of the war in Lebanon.

This page serves as an overview of the various types of hoaxes, lies and other deceptions perpetrated by Reuters in recent days, since the details of the scandal are getting overwhelmed by a torrent of shallow mainstream media coverage that can easily confuse or mislead the viewer. Almost all of the investigative work has been done by cutting-edge blogs, but the proliferation of exposťs might overwhelm the casual Web-surfer, who might be getting the various related scandals mixed up. In this essay I hope to straighten it all out.


It's important to understand that there is not just a single fraudulent Reuters photograph, nor even only one kind of fraudulent photograph. There are in fact dozens of photographs whose authenticity has been questioned, and they fall into four distinct categories.

The four types of photographic fraud perpetrated by Reuters photographers and editors are:


1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.

2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.

3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.

4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.



All of these forms of fraud have the same intent: to serve as propaganda for Hezbollah, and to make the Israeli attacks look as brutal as possible. And, taken together, they raise a very serious question: Can any of the coverage by the entrenched media be trusted?

The ever-growing scandal now involves other news services as well; at the bottom of this page are numerous examples of bias and fraud by other agencies, including Associated Press, The New York Times, and others.

Let's examine each type of fraud, with the photographic evidence itself:

1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.

This is what has been getting the majority of coverage in the media, because it is the most clear-cut -- even if the actual significance or newsworthiness of the photos involved is not particularly great.


20060805BeirutPhotoshop (22k image)

This is the fraudulent photo that has gotten by far the most coverage. This hoax was first exposed on August 5 by Little Green Footballs, when a reader named "Mike" pointed out the photo to LGF's Charles Johnson, who incontrovertibly demonstrated that the image had been altered using the Photoshop "clone" tool. For more info, click on the link above; this case has also been covered extensively throughout the mediasphere.


20060806BeirutPhotoshop09 (59k image)

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.


NEWS03080601 (15k image)

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.


fighter_org_big (88k image)

This image, also shown on the Jawa Report, demonstrates that the clone tool had again been used to copy portions of the photo and paste them in repeatedly elsewhere. In this case, the trails of one flare were copied and lengthened to make it look like there had been three flares. Click on the link above for a detailed explanation and several more photos proving the case. The photo-hoaxster in this instance was again Adnan Hajj, proving beyond doubt that he was very familiar with how to alter images in Photoshop. Ynet News featured an article on this photo manipulation as well.

After the public outcry over the obviously fake photos, Reuters fired Adnan Hajj and pulled all his photos from distribution, admitting that both photos were doctored. They made no mention of how or why their editors allowed fake photos to be released as real news, perhaps hoping that the firing of Hajj would put an end to the scandal. But Photoshopping images was only one of several ways in which Reuters has committed journalistic fraud during the war in Lebanon.

2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.

This is where the Reuters scandal started: with bloggers noticing that some of the images showing the aftermath of the July 30 air raid on Qana looked fishy. There are by now dozens of different photographs from that day whose authenticity has been seriously questioned, so all I can present here is a small representative sample.


Reuters_qana (22k image)

The first series that raised suspicions was this one, pointed out at many blogs, of a green-helmeted "rescue worker" who seems to parade around with the corpse of a child for an extended period of time. The blog EU Referendum had the most complete photo series compilation, showing that each image individually might be accepted as an unposed authentic news photo, but that when one considers all the photos taken that day by Reuters, AP, and Agence France Presse, it becomes obvious that the entire scene was some kind of gruesome theater performance, apparently with actors posing as rescue workers parading around with a few corpses, seemingly posing for the cameras instead of evacuating the bodies as efficiently as possible.


Reuters_Qana_02 (24k image)

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 photo that used to be at http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/060806/481/4d58f2befba34c9588d7075d2f25d5c0", 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 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.

However, on August 9, the ruse was completely unmasked by the TV newsmamagazine "Zapp" on the German NDR television network, which aired video of Mr. Green Helmet acting as a movie director and staging propaganda photos and videos while pretending to be a rescue worker. After the video was posted online, most leading bloggers (such as at Little Green Footballs) felt the evidence was now absolutely conclusive that Hezbollah was staging most of the imagery coming out of Lebanon.

Ynet News had an excellent article summarizing the different aspects of the Qana photo opportunity.


Hajj1245 (87k image)

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.


Hajj3456 (80k image)

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 have 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. The Dog of Flanders blog also believes that the top photo was taken with a telephoto lens, accounting for the apparent movement of the car.

Power Line's analysis finishes with a final photograph of a completely different damaged bridge, which is also identified as the Qasmiya Bridge. But Dog of Flanders speculates in the link given above that there may be two bridges near Qasmiya, which were both captioned as the Qasmiya Bridge. So -- what's going on here? Is the scenario on the first bridge a fabrication, with "citizens" being stage managed to run back and forth? Is the bridge in question not 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.


doll4-300 (11k image)

This Reuters image, for example, which was found in various media outlets, 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."

Yahoo also had in its news photos this picture of yet another Lebanese mannequin amazingly upright in the middle of destruction.


r2206122070 (66k image)

As was pointed out on the Ace of Spades blog among others, this burning Quran, supposedly ignited by Israeli missiles -- also miraculously captured by Adnan Hajj of Reuters -- is almost certainly a staged scene. The odds of any book -- much less a Quran -- bursting into flame hours after an air strike, right when a photographer was there to snap its picture, are rather slim. Since stories of desecrated Qurans have gotten so much media play in the past, it seems as if the Reuters photographer arranged the exact kind off iconic image he knew would arouse outrage in the Muslim world.

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:


abc108 (73k image)r1375024449 (58k image)r1891896384 (59k image)r3577351291 (71k image)

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. Several readers have also written in to point out how new, clean and undamaged the toys look -- unlikely, if they had all just been in an explosion.

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.

Ace of Spades has some more pictures of the ubiquitous Lebanese toys.

Strata-Sphere also has a mini-roundup of photos possibly staged by photographers, including this "too perfect" image of a schoolgirl's pristine photo lying on the rubble of a mosque destroyed in Qana.

4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.


hajjjuly24 (69k image)

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.


hajjaugust5 (81k image)

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.

Yet, 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.


BeirutB (35k image)

Hang on! As revealed on Little Green Footballs once again, the building was already destroyed as of July 18, according to this picture at Getty Images, which captioned it, "A press photographer takes pictures of the devastated southern Beirut suburbs of Dahyieh Junibiya, 18 July 2006."

So, a building that was demolished before July 18 was recycled again and again as "fresh" damage committed by Israel.


beirutwoman1 (24k image)

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."


beirutwoman2 (34k image)

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.


woman3 (67k image)

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.


woman3detail (114k image)

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."

This Reuters photo of a woman grieving for her home supposedly destroyed on August 8 might very well be the same woman yet again.

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.


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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.


usnews2 (157k image)

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.

Reuters, according to this theory, is taking advantage of the chaos of war, and the chaos of the international media coverage, to promulgate staged or contradictory news reports, knowing that their audience is distracted by an onslaught of too much information. 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.

An adjunct to this theory is the "fake but accurate" philosophy of journalism, in which it is deemed acceptable to fabricate evidence (such as the staged photos, or in an earlier instance, the Rathergate memo) if it illustrates a "higher truth." In other words, since we all "know" that Bush was derelict in his National Guard duty, the contents of the phony memo are technically true, even if the memo itself was a forgery. Similarly, given a pre-existing assumption that Israel is intentionally committing dastardly deeds in Lebanon, it's morally acceptable to manufacture evidence of their malfeasance, especially if we can't find the actual evidence in situ. This mindset is similar to that of crooked policemen who plant evidence on a suspect they believe to be guilty, since otherwise he might go unconvicted because the real evidence is lacking.

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. However, this theory is somewhat supported by the fact that Reuters had outsourced part of its captioning operations to Singapore and to Bangalore, India, where captions were written by "entry-level employees" who had little direct knowledge of the situation on the ground. There's no way for readers to know which captions were written by senior editors and which were written by inexperienced young workers who might be overly trusting of the photos' veracity.
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,
Well, Howard, there's no doubt about it: Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operations. In fact, beyond that, it has very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. They can turn on and off access to hospitals in those areas. They have a lot of power and influence. You don't get in there without their permission.

And when I went we were given about 10 or 15 minutes, quite literally running through a number of neighborhoods that they directed and they took us to.

What I would say at that time was, it was very clear to me that the Hezbollah press official who took us on that guided tour -- and there were Hezbollah security officials around us at the time with walkie-talkie radios -- that he felt a great deal of anxiety about the situation. And they were telling him -- I just listened to an explosion going off there, coming from the southern suburbs. They were -- they were telling him -- a second explosion there. They were telling here -- rumbling on -- they were telling him get out of this area, and he was very, very anxious about it.

But there's no doubt about it. They had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.

So what we did see today in a similar excursion, and Hezbollah is now running a number of these every day, taking journalists into this area. They realize that this is a good way for them to get their message out, taking journalists on a regular basis.


Another description of how Hezbollah intimidates journalists in Lebanon can be found on the Anderson Cooper blog. And this camera crew from TV2 in Norway had its film destroyed and its members menaced by Hezbollah (link in Norwegian) when they tried to film Hezbollah firing rockets at Israel.

So -- which of these theories is true? At this stage, it's impossible to tell. The actual truth may be a combination of all four theories.

Carnal Reason blog nicely put into words a fifth possible theory that many readers have also written in to state in their own ways:
Theory E: Reuters photographers and editors publish Hezbollah's propaganda to insure continued access to still more Hezbollah propaganda.

According to Theory E, playing along with Hezbollah's game is the price journalists must pay to gain access to the war zone. But in so doing, the only reports they ever file from the war zone serve Hezbollah's purpose. It's a vicious cycle in which one sacrifices one's impartiality in order to "get the news" -- and thus the news ends up becoming propaganda as a result.

And yet, in its "Code of Conduct," Reuters makes this claim:
That the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters shall at all times be fully preserved;
That Reuters shall supply unbiased and reliable news services to newspapers, news agencies, broadcasters and other media subscribers...

Unbiased? Ponder all the evidence above and decide for yourself: Is Reuters unbiased?


This scandal casts doubt not just on Reuters' coverage of the current war in Lebanon -- it casts doubt on all media coverage of this war, and of all wars in the past. How long has such chicanery been going on? Could it be that the public for the first time is learning that the media is not as impartial as it has always claimed?

The Scandal Widens to Other News Services

As can be gleaned from the examples above, Reuters is not the only news service involved in some of these bogus photo reports coming out of Lebanon. Photographers from Associated Press and Agence France Presse, in particular, have been present at some of the staged scenes as well, and AP's captions have repeatedly drawn criticism from several bloggers.

The New York Times

On August 8, the New York Times entered the fray, with what at first looked like a hoax being featured prominently on its site. Gateway Pundit unveiled the ruse, which likely caused the Times to subsequently issue a correction (see below):


newyorktimes2 (34k image)

In this first image, one of a series on the N.Y. Times site, a man with a greenish cap (on the right) is seen gesturing at the rubble.


newyorktimes4 (30k image)

In the second image, you can see the same man at the lower right, wearing the same cap and baggy, washed-out trunks.


newyorktimes (119k image)

And in this final picture, the same man is seen -- easily identifiable by his trunks, his hat pressed under his arm, and his distinctive nose -- seemingly pretending to be dead as someone else tries to lift his "fallen comrade." The Times captioned the image, "The mayor of Tyre said that in the worst hit areas, bodies were still buried under the rubble, and he appealed to the Israelis to allow government authorities time to pull them out. (Photo Tyler Hicks The New York Times)." The unmistakable implication is that the photo depicted what the caption was describing -- a "body" still buried under the rubble. In other words, the guy is now supposed to be dead.


nodust.1 (68k image)

Here's a clearer version of the final picture. If the original caption is to be taken at face value, it's not only obvious that the man is still alive and only feigning death, making the scene a staged hoax, but that Tyler Hicks, the photographer, must have known that he was only acting for the camera, since Hicks had taken the earlier pictures as well.

However, after this was publicized on a variety of blogs, Tyler Hicks was interviewed on NPR which featured the same photo on its site, this time -- according to Michelle Malkin -- with an updated caption, now saying that the man "had fallen and was hurt."

The Times then retracted the caption and published a correction that said,
A picture caption with an audio slide show on July 27 about an Israeli attack on a building in Tyre, Lebanon, imprecisely described the situation in the picture. The man pictured, who had been seen in previous images appearing to assist with the rescue effort, was injured during that rescue effort, not during the initial attack, and was not killed.

The correct description was this one, which appeared with that picture in the printed edition of The Times: After an Israeli airstrike destroyed a building in Tyre, Lebanon, yesterday, one man helped another who had fallen and was hurt."

That's a big improvement, but many people feel the Times only backpedaled because the deceptive online caption was caught by bloggers. Furthermore, many bloggers continue to feel that the man -- whose status was upgraded from dead to merely "injured" -- still looks like he's faking it nonetheless, feigning injury and posing for dramatic effect. If he fell and was knocked unconscious, how did his cap get tucked safely under his arm? If the pole in the foreground fell and hit him, then why is there a coat draped over it? And why is there a fresh rose under his leg?

The Associated Press


TyreBenCurtis2.1 (40k image)
The Associated Press, and photographer Ben Curtis, also came under criticism from EU Referendum for this series of photos which also looked to be clearly staged -- "Mr. Green Helmet" makes another appearance, picking up a strangely bloodless mangled body from an undamaged area, with trucks parked strategically in the background.

Sweetness & Light noticed a discrepancy between a story about "heavy equipment" being used to bury bodies in Lebanon -- with the implication that they were so numerous that they had to be pushed around by machines in a mass burial -- and AP photos of the same incident, which showed a single body being placed in a front-loader.

Various News Agencies

The blogs Sweetness & Light and EU Referendum also pointed out misleading captions about a white-shirted man carrying a girl in Qana; various outlets identified him as the girl's father, but an examination of several photos from several sources shows that he is not related to her, and is instead likely a member of Hezbollah.


beirut (58k image)

The Daily Ablution draws attention to a two-page spread in the print edition of The Guardian, which shows side-by-side comparisons of southern Beirut before and after the current conflict. In order to maximize the apparent damage, they made the "before" picture be in full color, and the "after" picture a washed-out gray. Is the entire city covered in a uniform gray dust? Or did the Guardian subtly "desaturate" the colors in the "after" picture?

Mideast: On Target points out how misleading this Guardian photo spread is in another way: while the reader is led to believe that the picture shows the damage to "Beirut," a Google Earth picture reveals the truth:


0608Beirut-googleearth (78k image)
This is Beirut. The small black rectangle in the center of the picture indicates the area depicted in the Guardian before-and-after pictures. It turns out that the Guardian only shows 1% of the city -- the 1% that was most damaged, around Hezbollah headquarters. The other 99% of the city -- which was mostly untouched -- was conveniently not shown.



Additional Links

Aish.com made an excellent Web video based on this "Reuters Photo Fraud" page, with a credit to zombietime at the end. The nicely produced three-minute movie touches on all the highlights of the scandal as presented here.

Thomas Lifson at Real Clear Politics also has a good essay summarizing some of the ever-widening aspects of the scandal.
Media Matters embarrasses itself trying to defend the authenticity of all the Reuters photographs coming out of Lebanon, falsely claiming that Reuters' denial of the accuracy of its Qana time-stamps somehow defuses the entire issue.
This post at James Taranto's Best of the Web -- about an AP photograph that at first appeared to show a dead body getting up -- turned out to be a false alarm when Augean Stables pointed out that the body likely had rigor mortis in a sitting position.
John Burtis in Canada Free Press has a nice round-up of the various photo frauds.


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IMO Blog (IsraŽl & Midden-Oosten) bevat mijn opinies over het IsraŽlisch-Palestijnse conflict, het Joodse recht op zelfbeschikking (ook bekend als Zionisme) en het Palestijnse recht op zelfbeschikking. Ik ben een academica uit Nederland. Ik ben actief geweest in diverse linkse bewegingen voor vrede, milieu en derde wereld. Ik ben noch Joods noch Palestijns noch IsraŽlisch noch Arabisch.

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IMO Blog contains my thoughts on the Israel - Palestine conflict, the Jewish right to self determination (aka Zionism) and the Palestinian right to self determination, and especially the involvement of Europe with the conflict in the light of it's own history. I am an academic from the Netherlands who has been active in several leftist movements for peace, environment and third world. I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian nor Israeli nor Arab.

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BLOGS NL-ISRAEL:
* Ratna.NL - Over IsraŽl en de Palestijnen 2005-2006
* Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog
* Laatste nieuws uit Israel
* Dutchblog Israel (NL/EN)
* Simon Soesan (tot 2013)
* The Crethi and the Plethi (NL/EN)
* Loor Schreef
* Israel in de Media
* Trouw Israel Monitor

AMI ISSEROFF & CO:
* MidEastWeb Log on Middle East peace (2002-2011)
* ZioNation - Progressive Zionism & Israel Web Log (2006-2010)
* Israel: Like this, as if (2007-2009)
* Middle East Analysis (2007-2011)

OTHER BLOGS ISRAEL:
* AP Israel Watch (2010)
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* Point of no return (Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees)
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DIVERSE ONDERWERPEN:
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* At the back of the hill
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NIET MEER GEUPDATE:
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* Jewish State
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