Photographer decries doctored image of Gaza protest

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Photo: flickr/Evan

In 2012, photographer Sulejman Omerbasic was in Bosnia at a rally to support Gaza. He took a photo of a demonstrator -- a woman holding signs reading "Stop Israeli Terrorism" and "Free Gaza."

Two years later, his photo circulates on the internet with a different message. The sign held by the protestor has been altered to read "Stop Hamas Terrorism on Israel" and "Free Gaza from Hamas."

Omerbasic was not pleased to discover that the photo he took at the rally for Gaza in Bosnia had been doctored.

"I am not happy at all with content being manipulated on my image on important issue such as protest for Gaza," said Omerbasic.

"Truth" is the most important thing about images, he added.

To Omerbasic's dismay, the altered photograph was circulated widely across the world during Israel's attack on Gaza in July 2014.

A website called the Jewish Journal refered to the doctored image on July 27 in an article titled "When Anti-Semitism Strikes Science and Medicine"

The article states:

"A few days ago we saw a photo in one of the social networks in which a Muslim protestor somewhere in Europe holds two signs. One saying "Stop Hamas terrorism on Israel", the other "Free Gaza from Hamas". This says it all. But how did we even get here, to a third round of fighting with Hamas?"  

A facebook account Or Mossaiov also shared the altered photograph, and from there, the image was shared over 5,000 times. Mossaiov did not respond to several interview requests. 

On July 15, the Israel Awareness Committee (IAC), a group part of Hillel Ottawa shared the image on Facebook but recently removed it. The IAC also did not respond to an interview request.

Photographic images are no longer difficult to manipulate, but photographers and photography services do their best to protect the integrity of journalistic images.

Omerbasic's photo was watermarked with, the name of the distribution agency where the original photo can be found. The company is aware that with the right amount of determination, its photos can be altered, but applies a digital watermark to its images to discourage would-be photoshoppers.

"Every submission to Demotix has a watermark digitally applied. While this doesn't stop someone who is determined to infringe copyright law by illegally using pictures; a digital watermark is the best that most picture agencies can do,"  said Demotix newsdesk and assignments manager Ossie Ikeogu.

People interested in reporting truth must condemn the misrepresentation of the news, Ikeogu added.

"This is a very rare occurrence," he noted, "I would say that people often mock up pictures for political purposes, usually for humorous effect but in this instance it appears to be an attempt to misrepresent a news event."

Omerbasic's photo is not the only image with the "Free Gaza from Hamas" slogan t-shirts and baseball caps with the same message are widely available.

The altered photo has led to speculation about the origin of the change.

"I am wondering," says Carleton University professor of sociology Nahla Abdo, "If this photo was constructed as part of the Israeli Hasbara (propaganda) attempt at distorting the Palestinian resistance turning the victims of its occupation into villains."

"Anyone watching the demonstrations in Gaza during the invasion would have seen and felt the support the women, men and children had given to the resistance" she added, "Hamas for all the Palestinians during the past Israeli assault was just a part and parcel of the resistance to Israeli occupation and colonialism."

Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and has just completed her summer as rabble's news intern. She is passionate about human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.

Photo: flickr/Evan  


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