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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Reuters admits altering Beirut photo

A Reuters photograph of smoke rising from buildings in Beirut has been withdrawn after coming under attack by American web logs. The blogs accused Reuters of distorting the photograph to include more smoke and damage.

The photograph showed two very heavy plumes of black smoke billowing from buildings in Beirut after an Air Force attack on the Lebanese capital. Reuters has since withdrawn the photograph from its website, along a message admitting that the image was distorted, and an apology to editors.

Reuters withdraws doctored image

In the message, Reuters said that "photo editing software was improperly used on this image. A corrected version will immediately follow this advisory. We are sorry for any inconvience."

Reuters' head of PR Moira Whittle said in response: "Reuters has suspended a photographer until investigations are completed into changes made to a photograph showing smoke billowing from buildings following an air strike on Beirut. Reuters takes such matters extremely seriously as it is strictly against company editorial policy to alter pictures."

"As soon as the allegation came to light, the photograph, filed on Saturday 5 August, was removed from the file and a replacement, showing the same scene, was sent. The explanation for the removal was the improper use of photo-editing software," she added.

Earlier, Charles Johnson, of the Little Green Footballs blog , which has exposed a previous attempt at fraud by a major American news corporation, wrote : "This Reuters photograph shows blatant evidence of manipulation. Notice the repeating patterns in the smoke; this is almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop “clone” tool to add more smoke to the image."

Johnson added: "Smoke simply does not contain repeating symmetrical patterns like this, and you can see the repetition in both plumes of smoke. There’s really no question about it."

A series of close ups are then posted on the blog, showing that "it’s not only the plumes of smoke that were 'enhanced.' There are also cloned buildings." The close ups do appear to show exact replicas of buildings appearing next to one another in the photograph.

The Sports Shooter web forum , used by professional photographers, also examined the photo, with many users concluding that the image has been doctored.

'Looks so obviously doctored'

"I'll second the cloned smoke...but it looks so obvious that I don't know how the photographer could have gotten away with it," wrote one user.

After further research, Johnson posted a photograph he says is the original image taken before distortions were made, showing much lighter smoke rising.

Other blogs have also analyzed the photographs, and reached similar conclusions, such as Left & Right , which states: "The photo has been doctored, quite badly."

The author of the Ace of Spades blog wrote: "Even I can see the very suspicious "clonings" of picture elements here. And I'm an idiot."

The Hot Air blog also looked at the photo, describing the image as "the worst Photoshop I have ever seen."

Adnan Hajj, the photographer who sent the altered image, was also the Reuters photographer behind many of the images from Qana – which have also been the subject of suspicions for being staged.

(to view picture please click on title to be linked to Ynet)

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