Reuters, the British worldwide news agency, admitted on June 8 that it had released cropped photographs taken during the melee between Israeli commandos and the organizers of a Turkish/Palesitnian attempt to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is the second instance in recent times that Reuters has been accused of editing photographs that casts Israel in the light of the villain in decades-long strife in the Mideast. However, Reuters says that it was not at fault this time.
In the fight between Israeli commandos who rappelled to the deck of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara on May 31, at least nine people were killed (among them a Turkish born US citizen) and scores injured. Israeli commandos were met with knives and improvised weapons, while one was shot. The photos of the struggle were released by IHH, the Turkish-based group that sponsored the six-ship fleet was interdicted in international waters.
In the doctored photo released by Reuters, an Israeli commando is shown lying on the deck of the ship, surrounded by activists. An unedited photo released by IHH shows the hand of an unidentified activist holding a knife. But in the Reuters photo, the hand is visible but the knife and blood along the ship’s railing has been edited out.
Reuters reacted to questions raised the American blog “Little Green Footballs” that showed that Reuters' photo service edited out knives and blood traces from pictures taken aboard the Mavi Marmara.
“Little Green Footballs” stated at its site “That’s a very interesting way to crop the photo. 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 someone was trying to hide it.”
What happened on the Mavi Marmara and who was responsible for the killing and bloodshed on the ship is hotly contended. Pro-Palestine groups charge that Israeli commandos fired first and provoked the melee. Israeli commandos say they were compelled to use deadly force after they were attacked and disarmed by people on board the ship. Israel says the commandos were equipped with paintball guns, but also carried pistols for self-protection.
Reuters denied on June 8 any intention to alter the photographs. In a statement, Reuters said “The images in question were made available in Istanbul, and following normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included cropping at the edges," and "When we realized that a dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images, Reuters immediately moved the original set as well." Reuters has yet to respond to charges about the second photo.
This is the second time Reuters has been accused of manipulating photos. In 2006 a Reuters photographer, Adnan Hajj, edited several photos of results of Israel's bombing of Lebanon. In one he added smoke to a panoramic picture of south Beirut to make the damage look more severe than it was. In a second photo, Hajj showed a woman whose home had supposedly been destroyed in the same raid, but an investigation revealed that the woman's house had been destroyed prior to the Israeli strike. Reuters then removed all of Hajj's more than 900 photos from distribution and severed its relationship with him. A photo editor also was fired.