Faking jubilation in Baghdad?

THE GUARDIAN TODAY carries an interesting article by Stephen Bates which reports the claim that on 9 April, the day Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad, the Evening Standard carried a misleading front page photograph of celebrating Iraqis. The photograph, it has been suggested, had been digitally doctored in order to exaggerate the size of the crowd.

One of the interesting features of the article is that it is itself somewhat misleading.  It describes the evidence for the prosecution, put forward on an American website called 'The Memory Hole', in the following terms: '
It claims the picture shows the same man in a turban three times, a man in sunglasses and white open-collared shirt twice and several other unidentified objects apparently repeated.' Yet this is not quite accurate. The website does not simply make the claim - it illustrates it by reproducing the photograph and circling the repeated images. See also the earlier treatment of the same topic on the Indymedia website together with the ensuing debate.

Stephen Bates may be right to suggest that the evidence is not 100% conclusive. But it does seem rather more persuasive than his piece suggests. And if the website is right, then Bates is surely wrong when he says 'it was scarcely a lie, whatever the Memory Hole might claim'.

Since the question of whether the photograph was doctored or not is such an important one, it is reasonably clear that what the Evening Standard ought to do is obtain a copy of the original BBC News24 film from which it allegedly took its front-page picture without significant alteration. It would then be in a position to prove beyond question that its own account of how the photo came into being is an accurate one  So far it would appear that it has not done this.  

5 May 2003                                                          

Richard Webster, 2003



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