2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies

2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies

The 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies refers to instances of photojournalism from the 2006 Lebanon War that misrepresented or allegedly misrepresented scenes of death and destruction in Lebanon caused by Israeli air attacks. As a result of the scandal, Reuters fired one freelance photographer and the AP disciplined several others. Reuters also fired a photo editor.

The controversy began as an investigation of documents by individual s, and spread to print and television media sources. [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1154525850241&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull "Reutersgate strikes other news outlets"] , Sheera Claire Frenkel, Jerusalem Post, August 11, 2006] It led to the Reuters news organization firing freelance photographer Adnan Hajj, and implementing stricter controls on its photo-gathering process.

Four types of misleading photojournalism were alleged:

# Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.
# Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.
# Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.
# Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place. [ [http://www.zombietime.com/reuters_photo_fraud/ The Reuters Photo Scandal: A Taxonomy of Fraud] ]

CAMERA, a pro-Israel media watch organization, said that the alleged photographic manipulations were used by the mainstream media in an attempt to sway public opinion and paint Israel as an aggressor, and suggesting that Israel was guilty of targeting civilians. [http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=2&x_article=1175 "Updated: A Reprise: Media Photo Manipulation"] , Ricki Hollander, CAMERA, August 8, 2006]

According to the online magazine Counterpunch, it was the online daily news magazine Israel Insider that coined the term Hezbollywood for the phenomenon; the new word came into wide circulation in July 2006. [ Digitally Erasing a Massacre; Why Hezbollywood Was Born, By ANDREW FORD LYONS, Counterpunch, Aug. 15, 2006 http://www.counterpunch.org/lyons08152006.html ]

Photo manipulation

Adnan Hajj, a freelance photographer, was fired by Reuters after he admitted using Photoshop to add and darken smoke spirals in photographs of Beirut, in order to make the damage appear worse. [http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002951326 Reuters Says Freelancer Manipulated Lebanon Photos] , Photo District News Online, 18 January 2007] Reuters stated that Hajj had edited another photo, and critics raised further questions about Hajj's work. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3287774,00.html "Reuters admits to more image manipulation"] , "Ynetnews", 7 August 2006] Reuters announced that they had withdrawn "all of Hajj's photos, about 920 images, from its archives".

Allegations of staging by press photographers

A photo of a burning Qur'an amid a pile of rubble, also taken by Hajj, seemed suspicious to "Los Angeles Times" media critic Tim Rutten, since the building it was in had been destroyed in an Israeli airstrike hours beforehand, and everything else in the photo was already ash. [http://www.journalism.wisc.edu/j202/discussion_spring07/wk8_lat_photos.pdf "Lebanon photos: Take a closer look"] , Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2006] A number of photographs were taken from Lebanon showing various children's toys in the foreground, each surrounded by a pile of rubble. Rutten also wrote about this set, saying that "Reuters might want to check its freelancers' expenses for unexplained Toys R Us purchases."

Similarly, the CAMERA questioned the authenticity of seemingly pristine photographs and photo albums lying on the top of the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli missiles, asking "how often does one find intact photographs sitting alone and undisturbed on top of the ruins of a building levelled by a missile? But coincidentally or not, photographers from various news organizations have been finding just that in rubble all over Lebanon "... "with the only common denominator that all purport to depict Israel's destruction of Lebanese civilian life"

Allegations of photo staging by others

Many allegations of staging by those other than press photographers focused on Salam Daher, the head of the South Lebanon civil defense organisation, who was shown holding up a dead girl's body in many press photos taken at the scene of the 2006 Qana airstrike. Prior to his identity being established by the media, he was dubbed "Green Helmet" or the "Green Helmet Guy" after the protective headgear that he was shown wearing. Some commentatorswho|date=July 2008 accused him of being a Hezbollah operative who was manipulating press coverage to create anti-Israel sympathy [ [http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/07/who-is-this-man.html "Who is this man?" Richard North, July 31,2006] ] and argued that he seemed to be posing for photos for a longer period of time than a legitimate rescue worker would. [ [http://jewishworldreview.com/kathleen/parker080906.php3 "Photoshopping history"] , Kathleen Parker, "Jewish World Review", 9 August 2006] A German television station, NDR, in a program called "Zapp", subsequently argued that Daher had been directing the filming of the rescue effort (giving instructions to the cameraman to keep filming and removing a boy's body that was already put in an ambulance, in order to take more pictures of it), and called him a "cynical movie director.""Green Helmet acting as cynical movie director in Qana", Zapp, Norddeutscher Rundfunk]

Later, the Associated Press published a profile on Daher in which he denied the Hezbollah allegations, stating, "I am just a civil defense worker. I have done this job all my life." [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060812/ap_on_re_mi_ea/mideast_fighting_green_helmet_1 "'Green Helmet' helps rescue the wounded"] , Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, 11 August 2006] Daher stated that he has shown the photographers dead children to show who the airstrikes were killing, saying, "I wanted people to see who was dying. They said they were killing fighters. They killed children." [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060815/ap_on_re_mi_ea/mideast_green_helmet "Lebanese rescuer 'Green Helmet' injured"] , Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, 15 August 2006]

On August 8, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper reported about a Hezbollah press tour of a bombed-out area in southern Beirut on 23 July 2006, during which Hezbollah operatives asked a group of empty ambulances to switch on their sirens and flashing lights for the benefit of the waiting press photographers, to give the impression that they were responding to casualties. Senior Producer Charlie Moore described the same tour as a "dog-and-pony show". [cite news|title=Our very strange day with Hezbollah|url= http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/07/our-very-strange-day-with-hezbollah.html |publisher=CNN |author=Charlie Moore| date=2006-07-23]

Ambulance controversy

After the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement saying that "two of its ambulances were struck by [Israeli] munitions, although both vehicles were clearly marked" on 23 July 2006, wounding nine people, [ [http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList577/1FE66CF8A9A9FEF2C12571B5005F59A0 Lebanese Red Cross ambulances suffer new security incidents] , International Committee of the Red Cross, 24 July 2006] the Associated Press reported that "Israeli jets blasted two ambulances with rockets" according to "Ali Deebe, a Red Cross spokesman in Tyre". [ [http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=11804 "Lebanese hospital struggles with wounded"] , Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, 24 July 2006] The story quickly spread to many other news outlets around the world. The "Boston Globe" quoted Kasim Shaalan as saying "A big fire came toward me, like in a dream" after a "rocket or missile had made a direct hit through the roof". [ [http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/07/25/ambulance_drivers_tell_tales_of_horror/ Ambulance drivers tell tales of horror] , Thanassis Cambanis, "Boston Globe", 25 July 2006] .

A controversy developed when 'zombie', the pseudonymous owner of the zombietime website, posted a long essay arguing (among other things) that the damage to the ambulances was far too light for a missile strike. [ [http://www.zombietime.com/fraud/ambulance/ The Red Cross Ambulance Incident] , 'zombie', zombietime.com, posted 23 August 2006, updated 11 September 2006] Zombie said that the ambulances were rusted out in the photographs, that explosive damage would not have left a rusted out shell, and that the photos showed no blast damage but instead a perfectly round hole that coincided precisely with where the roof vent would be. This was picked up by the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who said on August 28, "after closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax," [ [http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2006/060828_nnp_conf.html "Foreign Policy Values and the Media"] , speech by Alexander Downer, 28 August 2006] a conclusion he later said he drew from initial reports. [ [http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/transcripts/2006/060831_ds.html Doorstop interview] , Alexander Downer, 31 August 2006] On August 30, the ICRC "rebuked" Foreign Minister Alexander Downer "for relying on an unverified internet blog" and said that "there was no evidence to support" the hoax claim. [ [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20300357-2702,00.html "Red Cross slams Downer hoax claim"] , Mark Dodd and Martin Chulov, The Australian, 30 August 2006 Downer stood by his charge.] [ [http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/transcripts/2006/060830_abc.html Alexander Downer radio interview] with Tony Eastley, "AM", 30 August 2006]

Andrew Bolt, a conservative Australian columnist who had written a column arguing that media photographs contradicted the ICRC's claims and that reporters were "passing on as fact the propaganda of terrorists", [ [http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_not_the_whole_truth/ Not the whole truth] , Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, 30 August 2006] defended Downer, [ [http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/sticking_by_the_hoax/ Sticking by the Hoax] , Andrew Bolt's blog, 31 August 2006] and noted that later reports claiming that the ambulances were hit by small arms fire contradicted the original reports. [ [http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/fake_but_true_the_age_defends_the_holey_ambulance_hoax/ Fake-but-true: "The Age" defends the holey ambulance hoax] , Andrew Bolt's blog, 2 September 2006] He also published an unnamed military source's report that "there is no weapon that would deliver terminal effects consistent with the pictures, the alleged story and the reputed damage done to ambulance and people." [ [http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/the_ambulance_hoax_why_no_missile_could_have_done_this/ The ambulance hoax: why no missile could have done this] , Andrew Bolt's blog, 1 September 2006]

In December 2006, Human Rights Watch released a report on forensic investigations they conducted in Qana. The group concluded that there was no hoax. [ [http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/qana1206/index.htm The "Hoax" That Wasn’t: The July 23 Qana Ambulance Attack] , Human Rights Watch, 19 December 2006]

Human Rights Watch "originally reported that the ambulances had been struck by missiles fired from an Israeli airplane, but that conclusion was incorrect". The December 2006 report speculated that the ambulances were hit by a "smaller type of missile", possibly a "SPIKE anti-armor missile" or "the still experimental DIME (dense inert metal explosive) missile." [ [http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/qana1206/index.htm The "Hoax" That Wasn’t: The July 23 Qana Ambulance Attack] , Human Rights Watch, 19 December 2006] Both missiles have an extremely small blast radius, with DIME being specifically designed to avoid collateral damage when used in urban areas.

Allegations of improper captioning

Photographs submitted to Reuters and Associated Press showed a Lebanese woman mourning in front of destroyed buildings, said to be her home, on two different pictures taken by two photographers, published and captioned two weeks apart, which BBC editors replaced on their website after comments pointing to the inconsistency. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/08/trusting_photos.html BBC NEWS | The Editors ] ]

The "New York Times" improperly captioned a photo taken in the city of Tyre in its online edition; an injured rescue worker being lifted from the rubble was implied to have been a bombing victim when in fact the worker had slipped and fallen. The newspaper subsequently issued a correction, saying that the photo had appeared in the printed edition with the correct caption. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/09/pageoneplus/corrections.html?_r=2&oref=login&oref=slogin Corrections: For the Record - New York Times ] ]

Bruno Stevens photos

A set of photos taken by press photographer Bruno Stevens show a Lebanese gunman with a raging fire in the background. One such photo appeared on the cover of the July 31 issue of "U.S. News & World Report", with the inside caption, "Hezbollah guerilla poses at the site of an Israeli attack near Beirut". Another one was published in the July 31 issue of "Time", with a caption saying the fire came from the "wreckage of a downed Israeli jet." The photos' captioning quickly attracted controversy, with some commentators stating that the fire in the background appeared to be nothing more than a large pile of burning tires. [cite news|title=New York Times 'used fraudulent photo'|url=http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3288887,00.html|publisher=Ynet|date=August 9, 2006] [ [http://hotair.com/archives/2006/08/08/another-bogus-photo/ Hot Air » Blog Archive » Another bogus photo? (Update: “The Passion of the Toys”) (Update: U.S. News cover staged?) (Update: NYT photo fraud, too?) (Bumped) ] ]

On November 11, 2006 Stevens, on the online forum "Lightstalkers", gave his explanation for the controversy. [ [http://www.lightstalkers.org/the__garbage_dump__story__complete_explanation The Lebanon "garbage dump" story: complete explanation. | Lightstalkers ] ] He wrote that he had originally given one of the photos the following caption:

:"Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 An Israeli Air Force F16 has allegedly been shot down while bombing a group of Hezbollah owned trucks, at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher."

He wrote that sometime later, after having done more investigation, he had modified his caption to:

:"Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 The Israeli Air Force bombed a group of Hezbollah chartered trucks parked on the back of large Lebanese Army barracks, at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher, at least one missile was hit, misfiring high into the sky before falling down and starting a huge fire in the barracks' parking lot."

In his post, he wrote that he had had no say in the magazines' captions. He also reaffirmed the validity of his second caption, stating that the fire did not come from a garbage dump and was indeed the result of an Israeli attack; though he considered the site "a very legitimate target for the Israeli Air Force."

ee also

* Adnan Hajj photographs controversy
* Journalistic fraud
* Media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict
* Pallywood

External links

* [http://acjournal.org/holdings/vol9/summer/articles/fauxtography.html A Concise History of the Fauxtography Blogstorm in the 2006 Lebanon War]


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