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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reuters toughens rules after altered photo affair * 'Shooting under fire' promotional material

Reuters toughens rules after altered photo affair

[MEW editor's note: This post comprises two items. The first announces the appointment of a new Reuters chief photographer for the Middle East. It does not identify the previous holder of that job. The second item is promotional material for a documentary film about Reuters photographers covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict. -- J.M.H]

LONDON (Reuters) - Reuters named a new chief photographer for the Middle East on Thursday and said it had tightened its editing procedures after the publication last year of two photographs that had been digitally altered.
The measures were among several steps announced by David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of the global news and information agency, following an internal investigation that he said had resulted in disciplinary action.
The two photos, both of Israeli military action in Lebanon during the war there last August, were taken by a freelance photographer, Adnan Hajj.
Reuters ended its relationship with Hajj following an initial inquiry soon after bloggers questioned whether the photographs had been digitally altered using Photoshop software. All Hajj's images were removed from the Reuters Pictures sales database.
"Experienced photo editors and other senior editorial staff went through thousands of images published during the Lebanon conflict," Schlesinger said in a note posted on the Editors Blog of
"We are satisfied no other images were digitally altered."
He added: "We are fully satisfied that it was unfortunate human error that led to the inadvertent publication of two rogue photographs. There was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public."
Schlesinger said Reuters had not been satisfied with the degree of oversight in place that had allowed the two images to slip through.
The agency had tightened editing procedures to ensure that only senior photo editors dealt with sensitive images, invested in more training and supervision and strengthened its code of conduct for photographers, Schlesinger said.
He named Stephen Crisp, a Briton who has worked for Reuters in a variety of senior positions since 1985, as the new chief photographer for the Middle East and said he had taken up his assignment in Dubai this month.
"His predecessor in the Middle East role was dismissed in the course of the investigation for his handling of the case," Schlesinger wrote.
A company spokeswoman, Eileen Wise, said Reuters would not provide further details, citing staff confidentiality.
Hajj, who is Lebanese, began working for Reuters on a freelance basis in 1993 and had specialized in sports.
His work came into question after the publication on August 5 of a photograph of smoke rising over Beirut after an Israeli air strike.
The image had been digitally altered using the "cloning" tool in Photoshop so that it showed more smoke.
Hajj denied deliberate manipulation of the photograph.
He also denied altering a photograph of an Israeli F-16 fighter over southern Lebanon, which technical analysis concluded had been altered with the cloning tool to increase the number of flares dropped by the plane from one to three.
News photographers commonly use Photoshop to crop digital photographs and correct minor imperfections but its more sophisticated applications, which can radically alter an image, are taboo.
Schlesinger said Reuters was working with leaders in the photography and software industries to see if technical means can be devised to spot possible digital fraud.
The revised code of conduct, appended to Schlesinger's note, sets strict technical limits on use of Photoshop at Reuters and expands on previous guidelines on captioning, particularly of images taken in controlled environments.
"We have shown that when mistakes are made we take responsibility and make changes," Schlesinger said.
"Our enhanced guidelines and procedures are among the best in the industry. And I believe we are firm in our dedication to reporting the world truthfully, objectively and without bias, as we have done for more than 150 years."
(Writing by Paul Holmes in New York)
Context tv, undated
[promotional material for documentary film "Shooting under fire: The inside story of the image makers in Israel"
Reinhard Krause is Reuters' chief photographer in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He chooses which photos the world will see of this Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film follows three Reuters' photographers - a German, a Palestinian, and an Israeli - as they roam the frontline with their cameras. Set in Jerusalem and Palestine territories, we examine how difficult it is to report the truth in such a politically-charged region.
National Geographic ("Shooting Under Fire", 72min)
WDR ("SchussWechsel", 52 min)
The Story:
Reinhard Krause, the German head of the Reuters Israeli photo bureau is up against a deadline and facing a moral dilemma. He's looking at a photo that shows the head of the female suicide bomber still perfectly in tact lying on the ground, severed cleanly from her body without a blemish on her face and with no blood to be seen. Does he decide to show this to the world or keep it hidden? "Every picture must tell a story" Reinhard says and it's clear what happened with this frame, but is the world ready for this kind of image? He needs to decide within minutes. Welcome to the everyday difficulties of depicting a story that keeps rolling on with new horrors.
This film joins Reinhard during the last few weeks of his 4 year placement in Israel and unveils the people and the pressured process of a news agency producing the photos we see in papers around the world. Reinhard single-handedly revolutionised how photos are taken and reported upon in Israel and is now working with a well-oiled team made up of both Palestinians and Israelis, many of whom still have never met, as freedom of movement is restricted for everyone. Both sides of the war report to the same person.
Reinhard's team reports on atrocities most days and each of them has found different ways to cope with the stress of what they are witnessing. Gil, an Israeli photographer breaks down on camera after covering an emotional funeral saying that sometimes he feels like an animal chasing after the shots. Ahmed, a Palestinian who was nearly killed when on the job knows that it's his duty to show the world what is really going on in Gaza and lives and breathes his job. Nir, a young talented photographer in Tel Aviv has learnt to separate the day job and his leisure time and blocks off what he doesn't want to think about. Abed, a resident in the anarchic West Bank town of Nablus has become a spokesman for local journalists even though he's had to endure 90 days of curfew before. All of them won't change their job for love nor money.
This film gets behind the world's oldest news agency to show how the news is made and reported on, from the first ambulance text of an accident in Jerusalem to the front page of the papers the next morning. Few of us stop to think how our stories and pictures come to us. With unprecedented access Shooting under Fire shows us the full process, highlighting the staggeringly fast digital technology, the difficult morals that await even the toughest of snappers, and the extreme lives that people lead in a land in war.
- Hotdocs, Toronto 2005
- DocHouse, London 2005
- Guelph International Film Festival 2005
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, January 2006
- Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, March 2006
- Belfast Film Festival, March 2006
- Docaviv, 2006
- San Francisco International Film Festival 2006,
- Brooklyn International Film Festival 2006,
- Moondance International Film Festival 2006
- Ismaila International Film Festival 2006
- Zanzibar International Film Festival 2006

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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