Doctoring photos discovered by bloggers. Reuters suspends the photographer: In the race for the bias award, Reuters pulls ahead of AP–

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Feedback from our online readers

August 7, 2006

Black text = Reuters headlines and stories
Blue text = Reader Feedback
Red text = Editor’s note

Smoke billows from burning buildings destroyed during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut’s suburbs August 5, 2006. Many buildings were flattened during the attack. REUTERS/Adnan Hajj

I am so disappointed and disillusioned by your doctored imagery in your released photo of the Beirut bombing. I have always considered Reuters to be a reliable source of news – now I will always have to wonder.


You got caught red-handed. Please don’t talk to us about your superlative fact-checking abilities or your unbiased and even-handed objective coverage ever again. It will make me and many, many others sick to our stomachs and frankly embarrassed for you.


“Our policy is to send news to our customers only after scrutiny by a group of production editors who ensure quality standards are maintained across all our news services.”
Yeah, okay. Sure you do.


I thank you for your swift action taken on this issue. I believe that you have done the right thing by suspending the photographer until the investigation is done. I urge you to do a full investigation and publicly advertise its results.
As a photographer, the world needs to know that not all photographers are like this.

E. W.

We got more than 2,000 reader e-mails on this over the weekend. We issued a kill on the photo in question, and sent out an unaltered version as soon as possible:

Further, Reuters has withdrawn from its database all photographs taken by the Beirut-based freelancer after establishing that he had altered two images since the start of the conflict between Israel and the Lebanese Hizbollah group. :

Reuters has also put in place a tighter editing procedure for images of the Middle East conflict to ensure that no photograph from the region are transmitted to subscribers without review by the most senior editor on the Reuters Global Pictures Desk in Singapore.

“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. “Reuters has zero tolerance for any doctoring of pictures and constantly reminds its photographers, both staff and freelance, of this strict and unalterable policy”.

Reuters terminated its relationship with Hajj on Sunday after a review of a photograph he had taken of the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on suburban Beirut the previous day found it had been manipulated using Photoshop software to show more and darker smoke rising from buildings.

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. The caption also misidentified the objects as missiles rather than flares, which warplanes release as a defensive measure. Here is that photo:

“Manipulating photographs in this way is entirely unacceptable and contrary to all the principles consistently held by Reuters throughout its long and distinguished history. It undermines not only our reputation but also the good name of all our photographers,” said David Schlesinger, the Reuters Global Managing Editor.

Szlukovenyi said the mere 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.

“This doesn’t mean that every one of his 920 photographs in our database was altered. We know that not to be the case from the majority of images we have looked at so far but we need to act swiftly and in a precautionary manner,” Szlukovenyi said.

The two altered photographs were among 43 that Hajj had filed directly to the Global Pictures Desk since the start of the conflict on July 12 rather than through an editor in Beirut, as was the case with the great majority of his images. Filing drill have been tightened in Lebanon and only senior staff will now edit pictures from the Middle East on the Global Pictures Desk, with the final check undertaken by the Editor-in-Charge.

Hajj worked for Reuters as a non-staff contributing photographer from 1993 until 2003 and again since April 2005.

Continue on for some more reader comments on this incident: Editor


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