The blogosphere was in an uproar Monday regarding allegations that the Reuters news service had intentionally cropped-out incriminating details from photos released a day earlier by a Turkish newspaper showing bloodied IDF naval commandos aboard one of last week’s Gaza-bound protest ships.
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The photos, which were published on Sunday in the Turkish Hürriyet daily, showed images of the commandos, their fatigues stained with blood, subdued by passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara – the only vessel where violence erupted when the commandos attempted to board.
But when the photos were released by Reuters later in the day, bloggers immediately cried foul, taking note of discrepancies between the Turkish originals and two in particular that had been filed by the international news organization, claiming that Reuters had purposely excluded a knife from one of the photos, and a knife and even some blood in another.
At the popular blog Little- GreenFootballs.com, which initially took note of the missing knife, the blog’s founder, Charles Johnson, posted the story along with exhibits of both sets of pictures.
“That’s a very interesting way to crop the photo,” Johnson wrote. “Most people would consider that knife an important part of the context. There was a huge controversy over whether the activists were armed. Cropping out a knife, in a picture showing a soldier who’s apparently been stabbed, seems like a very odd editorial decision.
Unless,” Johnson added, “someone was trying to hide it.” Later on Sunday, LittleGreen- Footballs posted a second story featuring yet another cropped photo, this time showing one of the commandos apparently being dragged across the deck of the Mavi Marmara with passengers standing above him. On the right side of the Turkish original, a serrated knife is clearly visible in the hand of one of the passengers, along with blood running along what appears to be one of the ship’s banisters.
Additionally, the bloodied hand of another soldier, presumably sprawled out on the deck behind the first soldier, can be seen in the background.
Yet in the shot initially released by Reuters, none of these details are visible, as the photo shows only the first soldier being dragged and a man in an orange life vest standing above him.
“One picture cropped to remove a knife might be explained as incompetence or a simple mistake,” wrote Johnson.
“But now we have two pictures from the ‘peace activists’ that were cropped by someone at Reuters to remove knives in the hands of the activists as they attempted to take soldiers hostage.” Bloggers at his Web site took similar notice.
“Once might be oversight or carelessness,” one blogger, “Cato the Elder,” wrote. “Twice is an agenda.” At TheAugeanStables.com, blogger Richard Landes portrayed the apparent discrepancies through a different lens, citing each as being subservient to different audiences.
“The Turkish journal published these photos because they, and their Turkish audience, are proud of the damage they inflicted,” Landes wrote. “Just like the Egyptians have a museum to their (brief moment of) victory in 1973, so too the Turks now have a moment where they had the upper hand on Israeli soldiers. In a tribal warrior honor-shame culture, these photos are great.” But he then pointed out where the pictures could backfire.
“Of course, oops,” Landes continued. “That was supposed to be a peace-activist flotilla, with nothing but love for the whole world. And indeed, the worldwide indignation over Israel’s killing the nine on board depends on this story. If they were a bunch of bloodthirsty, street-fighting Jihadis, armed for close quarter combat, then the story doesn’t quite work.” Other bloggers referred to a controversy that erupted during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which Reuters acknowledged – after a post at LittleGreenFootballs pointed it out – that two photos taken by Adnan Hajj, a Lebanese freelance photographer who worked with the organization for more than a decade, had been “digitally altered” to add plumes of smoke to a picture of Beirut in the aftermath of an IAF air strike.
Later, blogger “Dr. Rusty Shackleford” of “The Jawa Report” published a Hajj photo that had been captioned as showing an IAF jet firing ground-attack missiles during an air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Nabatiya, when in fact the jet had only deployed a defensive flare, which was later doctored by Hajj to create the appearance of multiple projectiles.
After the allegations surfaced, Reuters announced that it had ended its relationship with Hajj, who claimed that he had been trying to remove dust marks from the photos and had made mistakes due to bad lighting conditions.
Reuters also pulled more than 900 of Hajj’s photos from its archive and
fired its chief photographer for the Middle East.
On Monday, a Reuters representative attributed the cropped photos to
“normal editorial practice” and added that once the omission of the
knives was realized, the original photos were also released for print.
“Reuters is committed to accurate and impartial reporting,” the
representative’s statement read.
“All images that pass over our wire follow a strict editorial evaluation
and selection process.
The images in question were made available in Istanbul, and following
normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included
cropping at the edges. When we realized that a dagger was inadvertently
cropped from the images, Reuters immediately moved the original set as