Reuters Pulls Doctored Photo

Photo from Beirut freelancer represents "a serious breach of Reuters standards."

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Reuters pulled a photograph of burning buildings in Beirut yesterday after a post on the Little Green Footballs blog outed it as digitally manipulated.

The photo, filed on Saturday by freelance photographer Adnan Hajj, ran with the caption "Smoke billows from burning buildings destroyed during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut's suburbs."

That smoke bore "repeating patterns" and came from at least two buildings that appeared to be identical, according to Little Green Footballs editor Charles Johnson. These repetitions were "almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop 'clone' tool," the post concluded.

Reuters issued a "picture kill" immediately after being notified of the manipulation along with a statement that "photo editing software was improperly used on this image," and replaced it with a corrected version of the photo.

UPDATE On Monday, Reuters withdrew all 920 photographs shot by Hajj from its database after a review showed he had altered two images. Gary Hershorn, Reuters' News Pictures Editor for North America, explains the company's Photoshop policy here.

Hajj, who has freelanced for Reuters since 1993 and has been suspended pending an internal inquiry, "denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under," according to the Reuters statement.

"This represents a serious breach of Reuters standards, and we shall not be accepting or using pictures taken by [Hajj]," the statement continued.

Other blogs and online forums, including the SportsShooter web forum, Left & Right, and Ace of Spades, have joined Little Green Footballs in criticizing Reuters for letting a photo so "obviously doctored" pass through its editing regiment and have questioned the veracity of other photos by Hajj.

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