Private Eye on “doctoring” of Iraq crowd photo in London Evening Standard of 9 April 2003

Street of Shame Private Eye, 8-21 August 2003, page 4

Most serious papers in America and Britain have a strict policy of not altering news photographs by computer jiggery-pokery.

Thus it was that on 2 April this year the Los Angeles Times sacked its staff photographer Brian Walski, after learning that his photo of a British soldier addressing a crowd of Iraqis - run on the front page two days earlier - was in fact a composite of two pictures, taken a few seconds apart. Walski's doctoring was noticed because he had accidentally included some crowd-members twice. The paper also apologised profusely to readers for deceiving them.

A week later, on 9 April, the London Evening Standard ran a front-page photo of Iraqis rejoicing at the arrival of US troops in Baghdad. Like the L.A. times picture, however, it was in fact a composite. Once again it was the incompetence of the doctoring that gave the game away: one man in a turban appeared no fewer than three times in the jubilant crowd.

But here's the difference: no heads rolled. And, it now transpires, the readers don't even get an apology. On 24 July the following brief announcement was buried in the Standard: "A number of readers have expressed concern that our front page picture on 9 April, showing Iraqis celebrating the liberation of Baghdad, had been enhanced to depict a larger crowd than actually existed. As it was taken from TV footage, extra people were added to the image to fill the space left by the removal of logos from the picture. In our opinion this did not alter the clarity or truth of the picture's message but we are happy to make this clear."

So that's all right then...