Largest-circulating Egyptian newspaper defends fake photo

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The original photo (top) compared with the doctored photo, printed in Al-Ahram (below). (Credit: Charles Apple's blog)

The largest-circulating newspaper in Egypt, Al-Ahram, published a doctored photo Sept. 14.  The photo misrepresents a state meeting and shows five leaders walking together.

Al-Ahram’s editor-in-chief, Osama Saraya, defended the decision to alter the photo in a Sept 17 editorial, the Associated Press reported.

“The expressionist photo is … a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other,” Saraya wrote, according to the AP.

In the original photo, Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak  is seen walking on the far left and steps behind the other leaders present — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abduallah II. But, the doctored photo moved Mubarak to the front center of the photo, making it appear that he was leading the group.

The meeting is from Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were mediated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. peace ambassador George Mitchell, the BBC noted.

Al-Ahram is a state-run newspaper, and the fake photo was published on page six of the newspaper.  The Mondo Times reports that Al-Ahram has a daily circulation of 900,000.

Blogger Khalil Waelk is credited with the find. Visual editor Charles Apple noted “Make no mistake: This is bad. This kind of work has no place at all in journalism.” Well, if you consider state-run media journalism, he wrote.  Because the newspaper is government-run, “it’d be easy to make a case, however, that this isn’t journalism…And as such, the paper isn’t subject to the rules of journalistic ethics.”

Apple added that while he is “in favor of advocating” for journalists worldwide to abide by ethical standards, maybe it’s “unfair to expect editors and designers at Al-Ahram to abide by standards they have perhaps never seen nor heard of.” But the Los Angeles Times reports that that the Egyptian staff is very much aware of journalism ethical standards.

The LA Times wrote: “Al Ahram staff members were left frustrated at the fabrication, and worried that the paper’s credibility was at stake. ‘Al Ahram is such a big name and an important asset in the Egyptian and Arab journalism and I’m very sad to see the paper take part in such fabrication,’ Sabah Hamamou, a deputy business editor at Al Ahram, told the Times.”

As the BBC reported, opposition 6 April Youth Movement has labeled the newspaper as”unprofessional” for not disclosing the Photoshop.  The photo is no longer available on Al-Ahram’s website; now, a photo of “the assembled leaders seated on chairs in the Red Sea resort,” appears.  See below a screenshot from Charles Apple’s blog of the doctored photo in context of the newspaper.

See above the doctored photo in the newspaper.  (Credit: Charles Apple’s blog)

The nonprofit Reporters without Borders ranks Egypt 143 out of 175 countries for press freedom. Also, the Egyptian government “owns 99% of newsagents.”


UPDATE: 9-18-2010: 7:54 AM EST:  Information from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times’ report added above.
UPDATE: 9-20-2010: 10:12 AM EST:  See a CNN video interview with the Egyptian blogger who spotted the doctored photo here.

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Largest-circulating Egyptian newspaper defends fake photo

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