Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Av 5766 - August 9, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Reuters Photographer in Lebanon Digitally Altered Images

by M Plaut

For the second time in two days Reuters news agency had to send all its clients an embarrassing "Picture Kill" advisory, as two images sent in by its Beirut photographer, Adnan Hajj, were exposed as having been digitally altered. Alert obervers on web logs (known as "blogs") found that both images had parts that were copied to make them appear more fearful than they were, and to put Israel in a worse light than it deserved.

On Sunday, Charles Johnson, who has a web log known as, found that an image of Beirut distributed by Reuters had been doctored to make it seem that Israeli bombing raids did more damage than they really did. The published image showed much more dark smoke than the original, but sharp-eyed observers could see that much of the smoke was not real (see images on page 9). It had been copied from one part of the image to another using a technique known as "cloning." The result made the damage look much worse than it really was, and when the manipulation came to light it was a profound embarrassment for Reuters. In these days of digital images and sophisticated editing programs, many liberties can be taken. If the products of a news organization are under suspicion, it throws the integrity of the entire organization into question.

After the fiasco on Sunday Reuters announced that it would not use any more images from that photographer, but it did not see fit to check out his past work, which included over 900 images.

On Monday, Rusty Shackleford of the My Pet Jawa web log, found that another image of Hajj had been altered. Published on August 2, it was captioned: "An Israeli F-16 warplane fires missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon." Shackleford noted that the plane was not firing missiles at all, but rather taking defensive action, dropping chaffe or flares as decoys for surface-to-air missiles. Furthermore, the three flares visible are really only really one one, along with two copies of it. And even furthermore, the image shows the jet dropping two bombs, one of which is a clear clone of the other suggesting that both are probably fakes and showing conclusively another instance of photo manipulation.

On Monday Reuters announced that it was deleting all of the 920 images in its database that were from Hajj, who worked for them for more than a decade. Hajj also took many of the photographs after the bombing at Kana two weeks ago which was said to have killed many civilians. However many questions were raised about some of those images.

Generally such incidents are not isolated and all of the photographer's work is now suspect. Furthermore, many observers have questioned the internal procedures of Reuters that allowed such work to be published. Seasoned photo editors said that the manipulation was evident and should have been caught in internal reviews before it was released. Reuters said that it would henceforth apply "tighter editing procedure for images of the Middle East conflict to ensure that no photograph from the region would be transmitted to subscribers without review by the most senior editor on the Reuters Global Pictures Desk."

The campaign in south Lebanon slogged on. After almost four weeks of fighting, Hizbullah's rockets are still coming with deadly effects. Sunday was the worst day yet, as 12 reserve soldiers, Hy"d, were killed by a Hizbullah Katyusha in Kfar Giladi. Contrary to regulations they were together in a group even after the alarm had sounded. A survivor said that there were almost constant sirens and they did not feel that they were in danger. Three more were killed in Haifa Sunday evening in a rocket attack on an Arab neighborhood.

The US and France had agreed on the wording of a resolution to be passed in the UN Security Council that was supposed to serve as a stepping-stone to a cease-fire. Further steps were uncertain after the terrible losses on Sunday.

Israeli commandos were operating deep in Lebanon to try to destroy more of the launchers that cause so much damage throughout the north of Israel. Fierce fighting continued in the south of Lebanon, including in the Hizbullah village of Bint Jbail and other locations. In the six years that it controlled the region, Hizbullah built an elaborate network of tunnels and traps that it uses against Israeli soldiers. Their fighters are well-equipped and thoroughly trained.

Israeli military experts say that they are far above Palestinian terrorists in their fighting ability, and they fight like soldiers of a sovreign state and not like a ragtag militia. Experts said that it is worrisome that an untethered militia could field such a force. Both in terms of the equipment Hizbullah has — including night-fighting equipment and sophisticated rockets — and the level of training and motivation of the fighters it is unprecedented that a stateless militia is at such a high level. Normal nation states are restrained by their responsibility for the safety of their civilians, but Hizbullah obviously feels none of that. Now, Hizbullah provides a model of evil that other terror organizations will try to emulate.


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