EGYPT: State-run newspaper explains why it doctored Mubarak photo
What a blunder.
Egypt's most widely circulated Arab newspaper is attempting to justify the doctoring of a photograph last week that skewered reality by falsely depicting President Hosni Mubarak walking ahead of U.S, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders during the recently-held Middle East peace talks.
The state-run Al Ahram newspaper digitally manipulated a photograph taken in Washington earlier this month that showed President Obama leading the four other leaders down a red carpet. In the original photo, Mubarak appears to be a step behind everyone else. In Al Ahram's version, which ran on Sept. 14, Mubarak, who faces constant rumors about his health, is mysteriously leading the pack.
That sleight-of-hand was criticized across the international media, drawing controversy and prompting questions regarding Al Ahram's professionalism. Al Ahram's editor has tried to play down the enormity of the fabrication: "The expressional photo is a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Hosni Mubarak on the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other," Osama Saraya wrote on Friday.
The doctored photo, which has not been removed from Al Ahram's website, was spotted by blogger Wael Khalil, who said that the incident is a telling, if unsettling, example of the paper's role in glorifying Mubarak and his regime.
"This [altered photo] is just a snapshot of the state media's daily deception about a number of issues, including democratic change and social justice," Khalil said.
"People have picked up on the photo because it's such a good insight into the government's way of operating in Egypt. Whenever there are problems they simply try and gloss over them. You can see it in both the photo and in the way they run the country," he added.
Nonetheless, 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. "Unfortunately, both Egypt and Al Ahram are enduring such tough times. They are both in their worst shapes and what goes wrong in the country is reflected on the paper's state."
Hamamou is convinced that the newspaper's management is appointed by the regime to serve the state's interests rather than maintain and protect the paper's positive image and ethical code.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photos, from top: Fabricated photo of Mubarak leading the four presidents. (Credit: Al Ahram); original photo. (Credit: Reuters)