Reuters might have another little problem with dramatic photos from the Middle East. The wire service sent this photo out last week with the caption "Palestinian lawmakers attend a parliament session in candlelight during a power cut in Gaza January 22, 2008." The photo—taken, along with a couple similar ones, by Gaza local Reuters photog Mohammed Salem—purports to show how Palestinian leaders are soldiering on in the face of the Israeli blockade and power cuts. Except that it's clearly the middle of the day, and sunlight would be streaming through the windows if the curtains weren't closed.
The Jerusalem Post reports that journos were invited to attend this mid-day Hamas government meeting, and they were all a bit confused to see the legislators "sitting around a table with burning candles." Despite the daylight. Making it basically a dramatic staged photograph. With a ridiculously credulous caption.
Back in 2006, a Reuters freelancer named Adnan Hajj got the agency into a bit of trouble by crappily photoshopping some extra smoke into a photo of the Israeli Defense Force attacking Beirut. Another manipulated Hajj photo was found, Reuters dropped him, and eventually fired a responsible photo editor.
Critics (and there are plenty!) charge that the 2006 controversy and this more recent example of, at the least, complicity in photo-staging, is proof of Big Media anti-Israel bias. We think it's more like a bias towards more dramatic photos. But it's also Reuters' unfortunate bind in covering overseas crises: they have to rely on folks who have to live there.
Mohammed Salem needs access from Hamas to continue doing his job. Hamas needs attention from western media like Reuters to drum up sympathy and stay in power. Reuters needs dramatic content. Basically, the entire situation is more or less exactly like Britney Spears, her pet paparazzi exploiters, and the media-celebrity complex. The poor Palestinian people are Britney, and Hamas is creepy Svengali lover/manager Sam Lufti.
We are all TMZ now.