Reuters Recalls Fake Beirut Photo After Exposed by Blogs

Reuters has recalled an “altered” photograph hours after coming under assault from the blogosphere.

A Reuters photograph of smoke rising from buildings in Beirut has been withdrawn after coming under attack by American web logs. The blogs accused Reuters of distorting the photograph to include more smoke and damage.

The photograph showed two very heavy plumes of black smoke billowing from buildings in Beirut after an Air Force attack on the Lebanese capital. Reuters has since withdrawn the photograph from its website, along a message admitting that the image was distorted, and an apology to editors.

Reuters Recalls Fake Beirut Photo After Exposed by Blogs

In the message, Reuters said that “photo editing software was improperly used on this image. A corrected version will immediately follow this advisory. We are sorry for any inconvience.”

Reuters Recalls Fake Beirut Photo After Exposed by Blogs Announcment

Earlier, Charles Johnson, of the Little Green Footballs blog , which has exposed a previous attempt at fraud by a major American news corporation, wrote : “This Reuters photograph shows blatant evidence of manipulation. Notice the repeating patterns in the smoke; this is almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop “clone” tool to add more smoke to the image.”

Take one night off from blogging to fight a cold and all hell breaks loose. . . .

Charles Johnson, Rob @ Left and Right, Michelle Malkin, Ace, and AllahPundit are among those who got on this one early and all provide excellent roundups of the photos, evidence, and blog coverage. Johnson, Rob, and Allah, especially, dug up most of the evidence.

Updated to include the image of the “picture kill” memo itself.

UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford and Jeff Harrell have excellent rundowns of photographer Adnan Hajj’s rather checkered history.

UPDATE: Rusty catches Hajj in yet another photoshopping.

Reuters has announced that it will not use any more of Hajj’s photos. (Contrary to some reports, he hasn’t been “fired.” Stringers can’t be fired, since they’re not employed.)

Ed Driscoll has a retrospective on how Reuters changed from the world’s most respected wire service to its present unreliable state.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. just me says:

    Seems like the MSM has had a lot of “software” mistakes when it comes to pictures they choose to publish.

    I am not sure how you mistakenly add extra black smoke and damage though.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Oh, I’m sure someone intentionally PhotoShopped the image for drammatic effect. Reuters is claiming, presumably, that it was done without knowledge of the editorial staff. So, either the photog, Hajj, did it or there’s an intermediate photo editor who “cleans up” the photos who used his artistic license here. Or, Reuters is lying.

  3. don surber says:

    Guys, it has been worst in the past, long before there were computers. And by copy editors!
    One photographer told me of taking pictures of a fire. To get the image the copy editor wanted, he cut two phots and mashed them together
    Thus the same fireman was in the same picture twice

  4. Chimpy says:

    I can’t believe anyone fell for this attempt by Chuckles the Clown to bash the MSM.
    Here is the link to the site CJ got the info and images from.

    Read my analysis and take a look at the images again.

    In this small 4.5 x 3 inch(my screen@1024×768) photo the right hand column of smoke appears cloned but not when blown up. On the original photo right click and select “save image as” to your desktop so you can find it. It’s called “reutersfake.bmp”. Open with a pic viewer and increase magnification to 200%, 300% and 400%. You will see that the patterns in the 2 columns of smoke do not repeat, are not the same or cloned. It is a coincidence that happens also with clouds and is magnified because of the small image. Fine detail is lost.

    And you are being faked out by the second photo which is a 2 frame animated gif image. This is the image that was fraudulently manipulated and not the original. The second, “sharpened” frame is actually cloned from another area of the pic by the person that produced this animated gif image.

    Look at the second frame of the gif image which has a supposed sharpened version of that area in the original. When sharpened, look at the building that slopes down on the left hand side, in the extreme bottom right corner of the sharpened area. It looks like the same building just slightly to the left at the bottom of the original. In the original that area is a blur and when sharpened the brights and darks don’t mach up. Now look above the spot of that sloped building in the original, and notice the bright building above, lining up with the right side of that building with the slope. Look at the brightness of that building in the original and how that building disappears in the sharpened version. That building should also be sharper and brighter. It shouldn’t just disappear altogether. When sharpened you can still make out the extreme right side of that building in the original area out side the sharpened area. But in the sharpened portion 90% of that building is missing.

    The building to the left of the building with the slope is suspect. On the back of the right side at the roof of that building see how the bright spot appears and disappears, ditto for the bright spot 1 floor down the building from roof area bright spot. If you sharpen, bright areas get brighter and dark areas get darker.
    Also this building is shifting slightly left and right between the 2 frames. Put your curser on an edge to see this shift.

    Granted this building looks similar to the one below and to the left in the original. Have you ever seen pics of Cabrini Green housing complex in Chicago. Row after row of the same buildings. There are buildings in any big city in the US that are exactly the same built by the same developer. Back in the early 80’s when the USS New Jersey was shelling the Muslim section of Beirut the pics of the area bombed looked like Cabrini Green only on a hillside. If this is repeated clones the building that slopes off to the left should have as much detail as the building to it’s left, in the original, because it is so bright. And that disappearing building should show below. But you only see that building once in the original

    Now look at the bottom left corner of the second “sharpened image and look how the smoke just disappears from the original. In that area of the second “sharpened frame, you see a building with no smoke in front of the top of that building like there should be, sharpened or not.

    Look at the left had column of smoke. In the original it is contiguous. In the sharpened frame it is separated on the right side and you can see through it. Also notice how the edges of the smoke shift in the second “sharpened” frame. Notice the shape of the smoke, that touches the left edge of the pic, rising from the buildings in the bottom left corner. Then look at the smoke at the top left of the sharpened image. Notice how the shape changes. And in the sharpened frame it looks exactly like the smoke I mentioned before at the bottom that’s touching the left edge of the pic.

    If you look hard you will see a few other tell tale signs of manipulation of the published original.

    Looking at this animated gif produce by the propagandist, my image viewer shows the masked area that was copied by this person.

    The propagandist copied the buildings from the bottom left of the pic and pasted (cloned) them higher and to the right. Then they reduced the size to make it proportional for the further distance were it was pasted. Then used the blur tool on the clone that they pasted.

    People will do anything or believe anything that advances the “dishonest” MSM meme.

  5. likwidshoe says:

    Chimpy – Reuters has admitted that the photo is fake.

    You can stop spamming your ridiculous and insulting diatribe now.

  6. Rob@L&R says:

    Sorry, Chimpy…

    I did NO ‘sharpening’ of the photo.

    I resized the image and cropped to the lower-left corner, then copied that portion of the photo that looked like it repeated and pasted it over the repeated area as a new layer.

    So, both rectangles are the exact same part of the image, only the top rectangle has been moved over the part where the clone was applied.


    The only ‘enhancement’ I made was to make the top layer a little less opaque.

  7. RJN says:

    The unphotoshopped version looks bad enough. Why bother to fake it up?

  8. SgtFluffy says:

    Since the advent of the Photoshop world, I rarely believe any photo I see. Hell I was sadened after I learned the phot taken of the Marines planting the Flag on Iwo Jima was staged and the photos and videos of McArthur coming ashore on the Phillipines was taken over and over. A phot can say at times more than what words ever could.

  9. Anderson says:

    Excellent work by LGF. (I so rarely get to say that.)

  10. walter66 says:

    if it’s good enough for Ohio Senator Mike DeWine to doctor photographs…………….

  11. Bithead says:

    The unphotoshopped version looks bad enough. Why bother to fake it up?

    You have just hit on the central reason why this story is important.

    Go out and look again at the pictures in question.

    Now consider what these pictures are supposed to represent. These are pictures of Qana, after an Israeli bombardment. Notice how in the un-doctored photo there is only one point source of smoke. Note in the picture that got pulled there are several point sources and much more of the smoke. The heavier smoke along with multiple point sources suggesta more devastating bombing by Israel, As opposed to the more surgical strike represented by the un-doctored photo.

    I agree that there is no particular value to Hezbollah or two Israel from a direct military standpoint to pass along the implication that the attack against Hezbollah positions was far more intensive than it really was.

    However, consider that Israel has been going to great pains to bomb targets occupied by Hezbollah forces. They have been struggling mightily to minimize civilian casualties. This job is made Harter, of course, by Hasbro laws habit of mixing itself in with the population. However Israel has at least been trying and to some degree have been successful.

    So along comes this photo… reportedly genuine, showing not a single point source of smoke and thereby a single bomb site, but multiple points of smoke and far more of it. indicating indiscriminate bombing.

    I suggest that the only group that would benefit from Israel’s attacks being miscast as indiscriminate would be Hezbollah. Not, mind you, from a military standpoint, but from a propaganda standpoint. The importance of propaganda can not be underestimated. As I said at my place about a week back:

    …the fact of the matter is the outcome of this war… our survival or not, depends as much on public opinion, as it does on boots on the ground. Indeed; in some ways, the war depends more on public opinion. Consider once again Vietnam. The North was weeks from folding, by the admission of their former commanders. What won the war there for them? Public opinion here at home.

    I said at the time, and I cited examples where the press had been used against us. Both in Vietnam, and in the current situation. Propaganda is a lesson that Hezbollah has learned well. Indeed, they hold it to be the only way they’re going to win anything at all of this conflict. They certainly do not have the wherewithal to win militarily on any front with Israel. However, given enough propaganda of the sort we’ve just witnessed, they hope to sway public opinion against the elimination of Hezbollah by Israel and the rest of the world. And, they seek to paint Israel has the aggressor.

    So with this, we have two points;

    # The value of propaganda to the enemy.

    # They seem to be taking the value of that propaganda far more seriously than we…. since nobody in here has figured out what purpsoe this fake would serve.

    And as an added bonus, we have a practical example of Bloggers jumping all over the faked photos, and countering the false propaganda put out by what I take to be a Hezbollah supporter. Since the press is falling down o the job, it’s up to the bloggers, I fear, to counter this propaganda effort of our enemy.

  12. anjin-san says:

    Whatever happened, it is very amateurish photoshop work, the cloning patterns are very obvious.

    Before we get too preachy about the devious nature of the “MSM”, it might be a good time to remember that the Bush ’04 campaign used doctored campaign photos that were photoshopped.

  13. Bithead says:

    Even assuming what you’re saying is correct, there’s a major difference between an advocate within a particular political campaign using doctored photographs and the news agency doing that. You would expect the campaign to be biased courts their candidate. You would not however it’s packed it from a supposedly news agency.

    To even contemplate putting the two on the same scale is reprehensible.

  14. walter66 says:

    btw Bithead…….that’s REPUBLICAN Senator Mike DeWine from Ohio.

    so let me get this straight….in your opinion the media has to be honest where politicians don’t? So honesty is kind of a selective thing for you…..right?

    honesty is the ALWAYS the best policy…..that’s reprehensible?

  15. Bithead says:

    So, you’re suggesting that supposedly faked photos in a purely domestic political campaign, equate to covert support of Hezbolah, an enemy sworn to our destruction are equal?

    You’ll pardon me if I don’t join you.

  16. walter66 says:

    I condemn both Rueters and Senator Mike DeWine for their lack of honesty…….you, on the other hand practice selective honesty

    they are both wrong……aren’t they?

  17. just me says:

    Walter I disagree with you.

    While I think politicians using photoshopped photos isn’t honest, you kind of expect politicians to play the snow job game to an extent. The intent is to get you to vote for them. Is it wrong-yes, if the photo is done to convey a falsehood, but you expect politicians to lack neutrality in a campaign.

    But a news photo, is a news photo, designed to convey what is really happening-news by definition should convey the realities and the truths of what it is covering. If photoshopped photos are used, and the photoshopping changes what the picture is showing (ie playing with contrast or something, can bother me-as in the case of the OJ Simpson magazine covers-but it isn’t changing the story in the photo). Photos tell a story, and when the story is supposed to be unbiased and neutral news, the story shouldn’t be a lie from the beginning.

  18. LJD says:

    No selective honesty, just the ability to differentiate between reality and fiction. Clearly, the Senator was not trying to influence facts with the doctored images.

    If this was Democrat, we’d be hearing about how it was done out of respect for the 9/11 families…

  19. anjin-san says:


    If you support the Bush campaign’s using faked images of the brave men & women who defend our country for purely political gain, I suppose that is your right. Some would call it reprehensible.

    I would hope the commander in chief would have more respect for those who serve under him, but that’s just me.

  20. walter66 says:

    looks like my comment about Army Ranger Pat Tillman and how his death was used by the republicans to manipulate America got deleted

    Editor’s note: Yep. Per the site comment policy, I deleted a probable thread-jacking comment that is not only off-topic but contained unsubstantiated slurs against the United States military.