Would an editor who had never visited the scene of a photograph deliberately contradict the photographer’s account of events? Is it possible that someone would change a caption that ends up incorrectly describing what took place? Moreover, would a prominent media outlet accept the claims of a terrorist organization over that of its own photographer?
Sounds hard to believe, but according to recent revelations by a photojournalist, this is exactly what happened with a photograph that was featured in Time Magazine during Israel’s conflict with Hizbollah. A few months ago, Time Magazine published the above photograph with the caption below.
Hizbollah propagandists were busy throughout the war claiming that they were achieving military victories. The caption in Time (which was published one week after the incident) would have only given credibility to their claims.
The only problem was: it never happened. What follows is the account of the photographer, Bruno Stevens. (His entire account and anger at having his caption changed can be read on Lightstalkers, a website for professional news photographers)
“Around 3:30 pm, I was in the office of Mr. Abisaad, the French press attache at the French Embassy, when Lebanese TV started to show looped footage of a large metallic object falling from the sky and exploding upon touching the ground, the subsequent fire seemed to be massive. The TV announced it as an Israeli jet being shot down over an army base in Kfar Chima about 4 miles from where I was. I took my car and rushed to the scene”
So Stevens rushed out to the scene to take pictures and see if the story broadcast on Lebanese television was accurate. It turns out, the story was not accurate at all. While his initial submission mentioned an “alleged Israeli jet” being shot down, Stevens quickly followed up and clarified that the destruction he photographed was from the explosion of a Hizbollah missile. The caption he submitted in the end makes no mention of an Israeli jet being shot down.
Look carefully at the following reverse angle picture that Stevens shot:
As Stevens himself describes, this picture is:
“clearly a medium range ground to ground missile launcher hidden into a large truck that was the target of the Israeli raid. This is a very important piece of evidence showing probable collusion between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, there is little doubt that the Lebanese Army was aware of the presence of at least one missile launcher and at least one large missile on their parking lot. The size of the launcher, destroyed a couple of days later from the ground by an unknown party suggest missiles 10 to 14 meters long.
There were 6 to 8 large articulated trucks parked there, making it a very legitimate target for the Israeli Air Force, quite far away from civilian houses.”
How does Stevens explain the caption switch. In his own words:
“They choose to caption it this way (I had NO control in this matter), they HAD my original caption.”
So the on-the-scene photographer collects evidence that this so called Hizbollah “victory” was a lie and in reality the result of a legitimate and successful Israeli attack on a military target. Furthermore, his picture is evidence of cooperation between the “neutral” Lebanese Army and the Hizbollah terror group. Even more compelling was that his pictures show evidence that rocket launchers were being hidden inside civilian trucks. Yet while these issues were ignored by his editors, the same editors rewrote his caption to create a story that never took place, a story that Hizbollah used for propaganda.
Please write to Time Magazine and demand to know why they rewrote their photographer’s story to publish an inaccurate “news” item. Ask if there was any action taken against the editor who made up the caption that contradicted the photographer’s eye-witness account.
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