Iran Found Flubbing Photo Fakery

You may have seen images of four rockets blasting skyward in major newspapers or websites like the BBC or NY Times, to name a few. Look again. Iran is engaged in a little Fauxtography.

The altered image:


The original image:


Here’s what’s known so far. The photo first appeared on the web site of Sepah News, the PR news service of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. A NY Times media blog, The Lede, explains what followed:

Agence France-Presse said that it obtained the image from the Web site of Sepah News, the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on Wednesday. But there was no sign of it there later in the day. Today, The Associated Press distributed what appeared to be a nearly identical photo from the same source, but without the fourth missile. . . .

So far, though, it can’t be said with any certainty whether there is any official Iranian involvement in this instance. Sepah apparently published the three-missile version of the image today without further explanation.

AFP retracted the photo, suggesting,

The 2nd Right missile has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test.

AFP later followed up by showing the photo to several experts who concurred that the image was manipulated.

So how did AP obtain a photo of three missiles while AFP got four? Editor & Publisher‘s Joe Strupp put that very question to AP:

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll referred E&P’s requests for further information to spokesman Paul Colford. He said only that AP obtained its image from the same Sepah News site as other news outlets.

Colford cited the AP caption with the image it transmitted that stated: “In this image made available Thursday July 10, 2008, from Sepah News website owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, showing Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles being launched from an undisclosed location on Wednesday July 9, 2008, which officials have said have a range of 1,250 miles and is armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead….” It was labeled “AP Photo/Sepah News.”

Perhaps the best assessment of Sepah News’ flubbed fakery comes from the people who know Photoshop as well as anybody — an editor’s note at Photoshop News:

Editor’s Note: Even from the small images above, it’s obvious to anybody who knows anything about digital imaging, that the image has been altered. Aside from the cloned clouds of dust, the sky surrounding the 4th missile obviously doesn’t blend naturally. Clearly Sepah News service doesn’t employ the best Photoshop artists…file this one under OOOPS!

One positive development is the closer scrutiny of the Revolutionary Guards’ so-called “media arm.” The Guards already earned itself a place on the State Dept. terror list, so there’s no reason Sepah News shouldn’t be designated too. The logic the Washington Times once applied to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV goes for Sepah News too:

Al Manar had hoped to stave off the designation as a terrorist entity by framing criticism of its connection to Hezbollah as an effort to deprive it of its First Amendment rights. But as the Treasury Department made clear, the issue is not al Manar’s role as a television station but its role in facilitating the activities of Hezbollah, an organization that has killed more Americans than every other terrorist group save al Qaeda.

“Any entity maintained by a terrorist group — whether masquerading as a charity, a business or a media outlet — is as culpable as the terrorist group itself,” said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.


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