That Was Quick:

In my last post (linked below), I wondered whether the MSM would seriously investigate allegations that some of the photos taken by photojournalists at Qana, including a few that appeared in major newspapers around the world, were staged. Answer--No!

The AP said information from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and that the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that web sites can use such stamps to show when pictures are posted, not taken. An AFP executive said he was stunned to be questioned about it. Reuters, in a statement, said it categorically rejects any such suggestion.

"It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor.

Carroll said in addition to personally speaking with photo editors, "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described."

Photographers are experienced in recognizing when someone is trying to stage something for their benefit, she said.

"Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?" asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP. "I'm totally stunned by first the question, and I can't imagine that somebody would think something like that would have happened."

Indeed, Little Green Footballs reports that the AP has already given its "Lebanese Team" its "Beat of the Week" Prize.

I'm a little surprised, though not shocked, by the arrogance of the answers. Carroll's answer is ridiculous. We know that photojournalists have been caught staging (and beyond that, faking) photos in the past. For example, local Palestinian stringers, including some working for major news agencies, have been known to assist in "creating" news photos and video. The idea that photojournalists are somehow beyond reproach and never engage in staging defies credulity. Moreover, it's possible the photos were staged by the locals, with the photojournalists unwitting accomplices.

Also, Carroll, apparently criticizing Rush Limbaugh, who attacked the photos for abeing staged, says: "It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor. Right. That's why, Ms. Carroll, you don't really know whether the photos were staged until you investigate thoroughly. Aren't you sitting in an office thousands of miles from the scene?

Baz's response goes to the conspiracy theories around whether the Qana deaths were really caused by an Israeli air strike, but say nothing about whether the photos were staged. We don't have a quote from anyone at Reuters, but, if anything, my presumption would be against trusting anything Reuters says that relates in any way to the Middle East. Without further evidence, I trust Reuters denials as much as Al-Manar television. [I have one link above, but to get a full flavor of the tenor of Reuters' mideast coverage, google "al reuters".]

There is no indication that any of these agencies have investigated why the "rescue worker" holding the baby in the most famous photos (including one lavished with praise by the AP's bigwigs that appeared on the front page of 33 newspapers worldwide) was also filmed holding a dead baby for the cameras 10 years ago. (He's identified in some news reports as civil defense worker Abu Shadi Jradi [update: who by the way lied about finding the bodies of at least 27 children in the wreckage--see link below, only 28 bodies, 19 of them children, have been found as of almost two days later]; despite being on the scene ten years ago, and also after an explosion in Tyre last week, neither Google nor Lexis have any other record of his existence under that name, or at least that spelling--any Arabic speakers out there want to Google the name in Arabic?). Nor are the agencies releasing the time-stamped photos that would remove doubt about chronology. Meanwhile, EU Referendum continues its investigation of the photos.

I'm not saying the photos in question were definitely staged. I'm saying legitimate questions were raised about the possible staging of some of the most influential news photos of the year. For the news wire agencies to simply pooh-pooh the claims does not suggest a serious commitment to transparency.

UPDATE (Moved up from Comments): Just to be clear, I don't think the question of whether or not the photos were staged has any bearing on one's view of the Israel-Party of God conflict (even if they were actually faked, not just stage,that would be the least of Hezbollah's sins). It also doesn't change my view of the overall situation if 60 (original reports) 28 (more recent reports of how many bodies the Red Cross actually found there; of note that the reporters at the scene quoted the higher figure basd on pure hearsay;) or zero (conspiracy theorists) civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Qana. So long as Israel has taken reasonable precautions to limit civilian casualties, as it has, the moral responsibility for any death lies with the Party of God for using Qana as a staging ground for attacks on Israel, knowing (far better than Israel) that civilians had remained in the village and were at risk. So why care if the photos were staged? Well, if that's your attitude, why not just have Oliver Stone recreate the scene and spread those photos around the international media?