August 7, 2006

Reuters withdraws all photos by freelancer

LONDON (Reuters) - Reuters withdrew all 920 photographs by
a freelance Lebanese photographer from its database on Monday
after an urgent review of his work showed he had altered two
images from the conflict between Israel and the armed group

Global Picture Editor Tom Szlukovenyi called the measure
precautionary but said the fact that two of the images by
photographer Adnan Hajj had been manipulated undermined trust
in his entire body of work.

"There is no graver breach of Reuters standards for our
photographers than the deliberate manipulation of an image,"
Szlukovenyi said in a statement.

"Reuters has zero tolerance for any doctoring of pictures
and constantly reminds its photographers, both staff and
freelance, of this strict and unalterable policy."

The news and information agency announced the decision in
an advisory note to its photo service subscribers. The note
also said Reuters had tightened editing procedures for
photographs from the conflict and apologized for the case.

Removing the images from the Reuters database excludes them
from future sale.

Reuters ended its relationship with Hajj on Sunday after it
found that a photograph he had taken of the aftermath of an
Israeli air strike on suburban Beirut had been manipulated
using Photoshop software to show more and darker smoke rising
from buildings.

An immediate enquiry began into Hajj's other work.

It established on Monday that a photograph of an Israeli
F-16 fighter over Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon and dated Aug 2,
had also been doctored to increase the number of flares dropped
by the plane from one to three.

"Manipulating photographs in this way is entirely
unacceptable and contrary to all the principles consistently
held by Reuters throughout its long and distinguished history.
It undermines not only our reputation but also the good name of
all our photographers," Szlukovenyi said.

"This doesn't mean that every one of his 920 photographs in
our database was altered. We know that not to be the case from
the majority of images we have looked at so far but we need to
act swiftly and in a precautionary manner."

The two altered photographs were among 43 that Hajj filed
directly to the Reuters Global Pictures Desk since the start of
the conflict on July 12 rather than through an editor in
Beirut, as was the case with the great majority of his images.

Filing drills have been tightened in Lebanon and only
senior staff will now edit pictures from the Middle East on the
Global Pictures Desk, with the final check undertaken by the
Editor-in-Charge, Reuters said.

Hajj worked for Reuters as a non-staff contributing
photographer from 1993 until 2003 and again since April 2005.
Most of his work was in sports photography, much of it outside

Hajj was not in Beirut on Monday and was not responding to
calls. He told Reuters on Sunday that the image of the Israeli
air strike on Beirut had dust marks which he had wanted to

Questions about the accuracy of the photograph arose after
it appeared on news Web sites on Saturday.

Several blogs, including a number which accuse the media of
distorted coverage of the Middle East conflict, said the
photograph had been doctored.