The Government Press Office held a meeting with heads of foreign news agencies earlier this month to protest the doctoring of photographs of the recent Lebanon war and the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and warned them that action could be taken against them if this practice continued, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The director of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman, told the Post Israel reserved the right to act against any media outlets working out of Israel if they "fail to conduct themselves in a professional manner."
The foreign journalists' coverage of the Lebanon war was discussed, with the meeting focused on doctored photographs used by news agencies, Seaman said.
"This was something new to the world, but we've seen it before," he said. "We expect them to take precautions in the future. If they are not taking the necessary measures to maintain professional standards then we reserve the right to take action against their offices in Israel."
The GPO cannot act directly against foreign press services, but it can make recommendations to the Communications, Foreign and Defense ministries, Seaman said.
The only action taken by the government against the news agencies during the recent war was to send complaints to their main offices.
Seaman spoke of staged photos from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, such as people standing in front of destroyed homes and falsely claiming ownership and instances in which photographers asked people to "recreate" reported incidents. He also said Palestinian photographers would sometimes tell children to throw rocks or have adults carry children pretending to be injured.
He also referred to photos making damage in Lebanon appear worse than it actually was.
After American Web blogs publicized the doctoring of a Reuters photograph, Reuters put the freelance photographer on leave and removed the photo from its Web site. The photograph showed a smoky, bombed area in southern Beirut. While the area had been hit in IAF air raids, the photographer added billows of smoke and additional damage to buildings using computer-imaging technology.
Reuters said it took the matter seriously and that its policy was not to alter photos.
Seaman said he had met with the bureau chiefs of Reuters, The Associated Press and the Foreign Press Association in his Jerusalem office to discuss actions that he described as "fueling anti-Israel sentiment."
All the bureau chiefs were barred from commenting on the meeting by their organizations.
Speaking on behalf of AP, international editor John Daniszewski said if one of their photographers was caught doctoring photographs, he would be fired immediately.
"I heard about it in regard to the Reuters stringer," he said in a phone interview from New York. I think they're trying to tar everyone with the same brush.
He said both Israelis and Palestinians often criticized the way they were covered, but that the agency had its own "gold standards" of accuracy and fairness to meet.
"It's such a contentious part of the world and other organizations and parties are going to want to pull coverage into one area or another," said Daniszewski. "We try to go straight down the middle. If anyone wants to raise issues, we are always willing to talk about it."