The Ghost of Snapped Shot

Or, welcome to my low-maintenance heck.

A Kinder, Gentler Jihad (Bumped)

See the response from REUTERS at the bottom of this article.

Top: Photo with Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on the wall. Bottom, where a man holds up shrapnel: The picture of Yassin has been replaced with a picture where Ismail Haniyeh is prominent. (Photo: MOHAMMED SALEM - REUTERS)
Eagle-eyed reader Universalgeni has sent in via e-mail this amazing story from Aftenposten. It seems that a reporter at that newspaper has analysed two photographs sent across the newswire by Mohammed Salem, who is frequently featured here at Snapped Shot.

What's curious about these photographs is, according to Aftenposten, the background. Pay particular attention to the pictures on the wall--you can click on the photograph on the right to view an enlarged copy. What is significant about this is that a wire photographer has potentially participated in the correction of a scene, inserting a more sympathetic picture into the background where previously was only a picture of a known and admitted terrorist. At the very least, there is a possibility that Mohammed was aware of the change, and elected not to take notice of it.

It's interesting to see that Aftenposten takes its role as investigative journalists seriously, instead of immediately rushing to the defence of a wire photographer who may have taken part in something which is against the very ethics of photojournalism. And alas, it is something which seems to have completely escaped the notice of the Reuters editor's desk, yet again.

Here's a translation of the article, courtesy Universalgeni, whose English is far better than my Norwegian.

Tampering with the back ground: Hamas altered Reuters photo from bomb attack

First published: 12.06.07 | Updated: 12.06.07 kl. 14:01

On the first photo that the Reuters photographer took after a shell hit the home of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanieyh, it is Hamas' founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin that is hanging in a frame on the wall.

But when one of Hamas' cleaning guys was showing the shrapnel to the photographer from Reuters in an arranged photo in the same place in the house, the picture of Ahmed Yassin was suddenly gone.

Instead there was a picture on the wall, where the Palestinian Prime Minister has a prominent role.

Smiling and waving

The Hamas founder Yassin is still in the picture, but less prominent. On this picture Ismail Haniyeh is pushing the wheelchair of the strongly disabled leader who was killed in an Israeli air strike on march 22. 2004.

It is very clear, that the Hamas leadership found it more correct to have a picture of their current leader as back ground for the photo - smiling and waving with the green Hamas cap on his head.

The attack this morning

It was this morning that a shell hit Haniyeh's home. Most likely it was Fatah who attacked the Prime Ministers house. The fighting between the heavily armed groups of the two government parties Fatah and Hamas resumed in Gaza this week.

Scores have been killed in increasingly severe fighting

So, yet again, we see a situation wherein a terrorist entity is using the Western press service to disseminate propaganda which suits its message. How much evidence of this propaganda do we need, before we've had enough? If our western news services really do have a problem with being used as a propagandistic tool, why do we continue to accept the lies and propaganda which these enemy-affiliated stringers send in?

Sadly, I suspect I already know the answer to that question.

My hat is off to Aftenposten, for refusing to blindly accept the propaganda at face value.

Update: Reuters has responded:

Photographers from Reuters and other news organizations were at the house taking pictures when one of Haniyeh’s sons decided he wanted a picture of his father on the wall, so he put it up in place of the one of Sheikh Yassin, in mid-photo shoot. We did not censor our shots by, for example, only using the pictures with Haniyeh’s photo in them, and we can’t very well stop people from rearranging their homes as they see fit. Indeed, both of those photos went out, side by side, to our photo clients: GBU Editor

In my opinion, once a newswire has been informed or notices that a scene of interest is being manipulated, no matter by which party, they should remove the photographs in question from their feed, as there is no longer any way to validate that the information being presented is factual.

Unless, of course, Reuters is not in the "fact" business.

 Tags: mohammed salem REUTERS #Intifada


#1 PM 15-Jun-2007
Uh that was magic...

More corpse, more Holy == more spritual wahabi with more rotten sprit
#2 forest 16-Jun-2007
A good course of action for a journalist in that situation would be to make clear note of the set changes in the photo captions and write-ups. The subject feeling the need to swap pictures on the wall is part of the story.

This is, of course, assuming the jounalists involved are interested in accurate reporting.
#3 Alex 16-Jun-2007
"In my opinion, once a newswire has been informed or notices that a scene of interest is being manipulated, no matter by which party, they should remove the photographs in question from their feed, as there is no longer any way to validate that the information being presented is factual."

Forgive me, but have you ever seen a press conference?

I would agree that Reuters should have sent out only the photos of the living room as it originally appeared -- since in this case it had those photographs -- but your criticism of them here just doesn't hold up. A huge amount of the photos we see in our news every day are staged in some way or other, because the subjects of the photo have endeavored to present themselves a certain way before bringing in the journalists.

No personal offense intended, but I read your "about" section, where you talk about not being a photojournalist. I think this is the problem with too many media critics. Talk about photographers and news organizations being lazy and ethically ambiguous, willing to run staged shots because they need to fill space -- criticize them for that -- and I'll agree with you, as I think many journalists would. But before you go shouting bias, you need to know what the news organization does about this situation in other instances, or you need to find out.
#4 Brian C. Ledbetter 16-Jun-2007

Thank you very much for the constructive criticism. I'd like to start off by saying that I do pride myself on being [i]fair[/i], if nothing else. And I do listen to criticism, and take it to heart, no matter where it comes from.

For the record, I don't go out of my way to allege fraud if I don't [i]honestly[/i] think there is any to be found. Consider this article, for instance, which illustrates a situation where other bloggers alleged fraud, and I countered that the evidence was not sufficient to make that leap.

There are other situations, however, that I do have a [i]distinct[/i] problem with - and it's not necessarily something that I would relate to "bias." At least, not in the industry at large.

Check out these photographs here, or these. (Heck, just about everything in this category will illustrate what I'm talking about.) Press conferences, organised by various groups of self-proclaimed killers (and fairly obvious thugs).

What intrinsic value is there in transmitting photographs of this sort over the wire? Would the press at large have given such glowing coverage to the [i]Ku Klux Klan[/i], if it were still a prominent force today? Or would the press marginalise and demonise them as being the extremists that they are? Why are the groups in the pictures ilnked above not marginalised, considering that they are [i]every[/i] bit as violent as (perhaps [i]moreso[/i] than) the KKK was.

Secondly, I take issue with situations like this, or this, where stringers send in photographs which are [i]fairly[/i] obviously intended to show militant Palestinians in a brave light. Personally, I don't see where this type of coverage is a [i]benefit[/i] to most readers, unless the wire services are primarily interested in serving markets hostile to Western nations...

The final pet peeve I have about the press is when somehow, important information is not transmitted in context with the images presented. Consider this photo, where the editorial desk probably should have identified the pipe pictured as being something which is typically used [i]by the militants[/i] to build rockets. Why is information like this deemed irrelevant by the editorial desk? Even if it isn't definitively confirmed, it is something which might be worth mentioning. Of course, there are also the endless streams of photographs of "martyr's" funeral processions, which is documented by people on the ground as being wholly contrived. Why is [i]false[/i] mourning (as I call it, crocodile tears) considered to be newsworthy?

You certainly sound like you're involved in journalism - I'd love it if you would stick around and keep an eye over my shoulder and let me know if I'm failing to see something obvious.. (Heck, I'd even give you a login over here, if you want to use [i]Snapped Shot[/i] as a platform to keep the critics honest - it would certainly be for a worthy cause!)

I don't mean to be hostile to photojournalism or most photojournalists in writing for this blog. It is my [i]honest and fervent[/i] desire to do my part to improve the overall editorial process, and thereby improve the field [i]for everyone[/i]. Sometimes, an outsider's view of things can be beneficial, no? When we insulate ourselves inside of our little parallel worlds, we tend to lose track of what the outside world is saying, do we not?

In any case, thank you [i]very much[/i] for the constructive criticism. I will definitely keep it in mind as I continue to write over here!

Most Respectfully,
#5 JayDee 18-Jun-2007
Brian, why are your replies longer than your original posts?
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