Let's see if you can figure out the subtle difference in language here. From an anti-Syrian protest today in Beirut:
Activists opposed to the Syrian government stage a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, to protest against what they allege is Syria's use of torture on prisoners. The demonstrators with the Committee of Torture Victims in Syrian Prisons group, used props to illustrate what they claim are tools used by Syrian authorities to torture prisoners. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
From an anti-Israeli protest back in January:
Children carry anti-Israeli banners during a protest against Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in front of the UNRWA building in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. The Arabic reads :" The grave yard of the Zionists." (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
As you can see, a protest is "staged" when it speaks out against something that Bilal holds dear to his heart, but it's obviously heartfelt and genuine when it speaks out against the evil, dreaded Zionists in Israel.
In fact, in the World According to Bilal Hussein, these orphans must have spontaneously decided to join in a protest which is clearly of a non-staged origin involving no "activists" or "staging" at all, to use such items as their piggy banks or flagrantly hateful posters or bloodied dolls, none of which qualify as being "props" in the least.
If being a hack journalist were a crime, it'd definitely be time for Bilal to go back to the slammer.
The difference here is that (a) I am not pretending to be an unbiased crusader of truth in the Middle East, and (b) I don't work for a mainstream news agency -- The first speaks to my honesty, the second to my ultimate irrelevance in the matter.
But if I did work for a wire agency, my official position on protest photos would be that the caption should always acknowledge actors and staging, no matter who does the acting and prearrangement. Always. A "spontaneous" protest in the street, save for in a truly repressed culture such as Iran's, almost never happens, so for us to pretend that a group of obviously coordinated people is an unrelated outpouring of the region's opinion is, frankly, us lying to ourselves.
But hey, I'm just an evil Zionist blogger. What the heck do I know?