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Storytelling In The News: #150

In UK, story trumps fake photos: Mirror editor resigns

May 15, 2004

Seeing is not believing after all.

Some of the photos of Iraq prison abuse turn out to be fake

Two weeks after after the London newspaper, The Daily Mirror published photos of purported abuse of an Iraqi prisoner by British troops, the newspaper said on Friday that it had been the victim of a "calculated and malicious hoax" in publishing pictures of purported abuse of an Iraqi prisoner by British troops. Editor Piers Morgan, who has repeatedly insisted the pictures were legitimate, was fired.

Brig Sheldon, speaking at a press conference at his regiment's headquarters in Fulwood, confirmed that the truck in the Mirror photos had been found at the Territorial Army's Kimberley barracks in Preston, less than a mile from Fulwood. Military police matched scratches on the vehicle with the Mirror's photographs.

The newspaper apologized "unreservedly," reversing itself one day after the British government said that military police and independent experts had concluded that the pictures were fraudulent.

The photos have been at the center of two weeks of uproar in Britain over alleged prisoner abuse, at a time when U.S. soldiers face similar charges. The British government is also facing separate claims that its troops have unjustly killed Iraqis and beaten prisoners.

Earlier Friday, senior officers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, whose soldiers the Mirror had claimed were shown in the photos, argued at a news conference that a weapon and truck shown in the photos had never been used by the unit in Iraq. They denounced Morgan, saying he had put troops in danger. It was time that "the ego of one editor [was] measured against the life of a soldier," said Col. David Black, the unit's former commander.

According to Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times, it was the Mirror's parent company that forced the change in direction. Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror PLC, summoned Morgan to a meeting and demanded he apologize. When he refused, he was fired.

Bottom line: images are trumped by stories

For all the talk in the US about the power of images from Iraq, the events in the UK dramatically underline the point that it isn't the images per se that cause the scandal. What bothers people is the story underlying the images.

Read the The Guardian

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