Preventing Truth From Being a Casualty
Truth, it is often said, is the first casualty of war. That old adage has been on the minds of The Post’s photo editors as they’ve tried to present visual images of the quarter century-old conflict in Sri Lanka, which appears to have ended Monday.
The problem has been how to authenticate photos from the war scene. “Due to the political climate, impartial media representatives are not in the conflict zones,” said night picture editor Mark Miller.
The Post has received numerous photos transmitted by the Associated Press or Reuters. But those wire services got many of their photos from either the Sri Lankan military or those loyal to the separatist rebel Tamil Tigers whose leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was reportedly killed on Monday. “I raised my concerns with using these photographs," Miller said, fearing either side could be using them for "propaganda."
Here’s an example. This top photo, from a pro-rebel group, was released on May 10 and carries a digital camera’s date and time stamp in the lower right. It purports to show civilians fleeing shelling by the Sri Lankan military.
But the bottom photo, released May 14 by the Sri Lankan military, claims to show an “uncropped” version of the same photo. To the right is a girl who appears to be smiling and carrying a camera -- hardly panicked from the alleged bombing.
It is unclear how the military came into possession of the photo. Indeed, the digital date and time stamp are missing. It is impossible to know whether the military electronically altered the photo, inserting the girl.
The challenge for The Post: How do you photographically capture the war without conveying false images? The answer, said Miller, is transparency. Unless a photo is known to be authentic, Post captions have included not only the original source for the photo, but also a carefully worded description of the circumstance.
For example, a May 18 photo inside the A-section is credited to “Sri Lankan Defense Ministry via Reuters” and carried this caption: “This photo shows what the army says are civilians crossing a lagoon to flee the northern battle zone.”
Posted by: waterfrontproperty | May 20, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BosLogan | May 21, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.