Reuters yesterday withdrew all 920 photographs taken by one of its freelance photographers after acknowledging that he had doctored images of the war in Lebanon. On Sunday, Reuters said Adnan Hajj manipulated a photograph of damage to Beirut after an Israeli attack, but the agency discovered yesterday that Mr. Hajj also doctored a photograph of an Israeli F-16 fighter, prompting the removal of all 920 photos from the Reuters database.
In a statement issued yesterday, Reuters's global pictures editor, Thomas Szlukovenyi, called the removal of Mr. Hajj's photographs a "precautionary" measure. He added, however, "Manipulating photographs in this way is entirely unacceptable and contrary to all the principles consistently held by Reuters throughout its long and distinguished history."
Reuters has terminated its relationship with Mr. Hajj.
Mr. Hajj's photographs have been the subject of heated debate on the Internet since the outset of the fighting in Lebanon, and bloggers first disclosed both the doctored photographs.The initial image, brought to light by the proprietor of the Little Green Footballs Web log, Charles Johnson, was manipulated using a computer program, Photoshop, to create the appearance of more smoke rising from buildings.
Rusty Shackleford of the Jawa Report, another Web log, discovered the second doctored photograph. The caption accompanying the photograph stated, "An Israeli F-16 warplane fires missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon." In fact, the plane was dropping defensive flares, and the number of flares falling from the F-16 was increased to three from one.
Although the head of public relations at Reuters, Moira Whittle, said initially that Reuters's internal investigation into the matter would be confined to the single doctored photograph the agency was aware of on Sunday, Reuters said it has now undertaken an investigation into Mr. Hajj's other work. Ms. Whittle declined to say whether Mr. Shackleford's disclosure of the second doctored image was the impetus for the agency's decision to conduct a more complete inquiry.
Reuters also has tightened its review process for photographs before they are published. While Mr. Hajj filed a number of images directly to the agency's Global Pictures Desk, where they were published without the oversight of a senior editor, Reuters said that from now on senior staff will edit pictures from the Middle East.