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IS IT A FAKE PHOTO? The timestamp on this photo, from a story in the Vietnamese paper Dantri.com says 9/10/2009. But the photo's metadata marks that the image was originally created in 2005.

On October 9, on freerepublic.com, Vietnamese blogger DieuVan Nguyen argued that a news photo implicating two Vietnamese journalists was a fake: Nguyen reports that Dantri.com, a Vietnamese online paper, had published a story about two journalists arrested for assault.

The accompanying Vietnamese police photo of an injured man features a timestamp dated 9/10/2009 (October 9, 2009—dates are traditionally written day/month/year in most countries, including Vietnam).  But, Nguyen alleges, the metadata contained in the image file actually shows the photo is from 2005.

Nguyen argues that the fake photo is a ploy to falsely implicate the two journalists. iMediaEthics examined the photo and found two pieces of evidence that support Nguyen’s claim that the photo is not what it seems.

1)    After accessing the image’s metadata, we found that, just as Nguyen claims, the photo is dated 2005:02:28 (February 28, 2005), not 9/10/2009 as the timestamp states.

2)    Another possible marker of photo tampering is the fact that the image timestamp – 9/10/2009 – is the same date that the article was published in Dantri–9/10/2009 at 6:49 PM.  The Dantri.com article (translated into English through google-translate) seems to state that the attack occurred on 8/10/2009 (October 8, 2009)—one day earlier than the story was published:

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“According to Police records from Dong Da district, about 20h30 on 8 / 10, Mr. Do Ba Tan (her husband Tran Khai Thanh Thuy) for motor block in the way of traveling street fair 178 Kham Thien.”

If the attack occurred on Oct. 8, it would be reasonable to assume that the injury photo was also taken on Oct. 8, when the officer, Nguyen Manh Diep, was likely to be rushed straight to the hospital with a bleeding head wound.  Yet the photo is time-stamped 9/10/2009. This further supports the possibility that the timestamp on this photo could have been faked.

Both of these discrepancies are illustrated in the comparison image below:

In this comparison image red arrows point to the conflicting dates.  (clockwise from top)  1. The timestamp of the Dantri.com article: 9/10/2009.  2. The timestamp of the questioned image: 9/10/2009.  3.The metadata from the Dantri.com photo, which lists an original date of 2005.  Click on image to enlarge in a new window. [Credit: Robert Slawinski, iMediaEthics.org]

Clearly there is enough evidence here to strongly question the photo’s authenticity, if not prove outright that it was faked–especially in the context of a state-run newspaper publishing in a country with a history of arresting independent and dissident journalists.

We have contacted DieuVan Nguyen to  find out if there have been any advances in the story, and will publish an update if anything new comes to light.

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Blogger Calls Vietnamese Police Photo A Fake: iMediaEthics Investigates

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3 Responses

  1. gingerbread says:

    It could be a bit late to make this comment. But if you can test more pictures from that Dantri news source, you would see that the supported ‘picture taken date’ and the news date rarely match. Just like this case as well.

    Why? Because simply, not all Vietnamese understand English, and not many of them, journalists or not, even bother to adjust their camera, computer or any equipment dates (which most of the time is either in English). Then the date could also be changed on purpose to avoid licensed softwares.

    I can’t say for sure, of course, but it certainly be rash and ridiculous to make an assumption based on your culture’s behaviour, then pat youself in the back with " it was faked–especially in the context of a state-run newspaper publishing in a country with a history of arresting independent and dissident journalists".

    If you haven’ guessed it by now, i’m an Vietnamese, and i also believe worldwide journalism should be more objective. But please stop confusing us with more unreliable articles, as it’s often countered it purpose here

  2. Rhonda Roland Shearer, StinkyJournalism.org editor says:

    @Gingerbread. Thanks for writing–it is never too late to question our stories. We wrote, after examining the case presented by a Vietnam blogger: (Shown here in the full quotation): "Clearly there is enough evidence here to strongly question the photo’s authenticity, if not prove outright that it was faked–especially in the context of a state-run newspaper publishing in a country with a history of arresting independent and dissident journalists. " I stand by our considering and naming the history of repressive governmetal practices in Vietnam against journalists as a valid context for judging this case. Take for example a recent report, headlined "Amid crackdown, two blogs shuttered in Vietnam.

    "New York, February 12, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Vietnamese government’s apparent shutdown of two politically oriented blogs, Blogosin and Bauxite Vietnam. The sites, both of which published critical perspectives on sensitive government issues, had been the targets of ongoing hacking, The Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse reported…."

    In fact, the Commitee To Protect Journalists’ Asia 2009 top ten list features Vietnam as 10th most problematic. See their list : Afghanistan, Burma, China, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam.

  3. DieuVan says:

    gingerbread said : "Why? Because simply, not all Vietnamese understand English, and not many of them, journalists or not, even bother to adjust their camera, computer or any equipment dates (which most of the time is either in English). Then the date could also be changed on purpose to avoid licensed softwares. "

    Dear @gingerbread ,

    Regardless how you set date and time on camera , the date show on each image and metadata should be the same .

    Your argument : Photos are dated 2005 because DanTri (forgot) didn’t set the date,and the camera sets the date to what it’s camera’s manufacture date was set . If an argument is valid, then the timestamp on the photo should be same as the date was set .

    Every photograph we take carries an embedded ‘metafile’ sync with the time and date of the exposure . In this case, the timestamp on the photo was dated 2009 , the evidence clearly indicated the photo is fake .

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