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UPDATE: Reuters Fires Photog Over Doctored Pictures
Published: August 06, 2006 5:30 PM ET updated Monday
NEW YORK Reuters admitted Sunday that it had published a doctored photograph of Beirut after an Israel strike on Saturday morning, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported. It said that it has fired Adnan Hajj, the Lebanese photographer who submitted the image.
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On Monday, it added further charges, saying he had manipulated at least one other photo -- and that all of his more than 900 pictures had been deleted from the news agency's data base.
Reuters also said today it had put in place a tighter editing procedure for images of the Middle East conflict to ensure that no photograph from the region would be transmitted to subscribers without review by the most senior editor on the Reuters Global Pictures Desk, according to a Reuters spokeswoman.
“There is no graver breach of Reuters standards for our photographers than the deliberate manipulation of an image," said Tom Szlukovenyi, Reuters Global Picture Editor, in a statement. "Reuters has zero tolerance for any doctoring of pictures and constantly reminds its photographers, both staff and freelance, of this strict and unalterable policy."
He added that the fact that Hajj had altered two of his photographs meant none of his work for Reuters could be trusted either by the news service or its users.
It all started with just one contested image, brought to light by bloggers: In the original picture, thin smoke can be seen rising over Beirut after a recent Israeli air strike; in the published photograph, thick, black smoke billows. "The photographer has denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying that he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under," said Moira Whittle, the head of public relations for Reuters, on Sunday.
"This represents a serious breach of Reuters' standards and we shall not be accepting or using pictures taken by him," Whittle said in a statement issued in London.
Hajj worked for Reuters as a non-staff freelance, or contributing photographer, from 1993 until 2003 and again since April 2005.
On Sunday, Reuters removed the retouched shot and replaced it with the original. The next day, it reported finding the other altered image.
Its Monday statement, after describing the flap over the first image, reads: "An immediate enquiry began into Hajj’s other work. It found on Monday that a second photograph, of an Israeli F-16 fighter over Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon and dated Aug 2, had been doctored to increase the number of flares dropped by the plane from one to three."
But Reuters also added: "He (Hajj) was among several photographers from the main international news agencies whose images of a dead child being held up by a rescuer in the village of Qana, south Lebanon, after an Israeli air strike on July 30 have been challenged by blogs critical of the mainstream media's coverage of the Middle East conflict.
Reuters and other news organizations reviewed those images and have all rejected allegations that the photographs were staged."
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