Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Narciso Contreras sacked for altering Syria picture

The Associated Press say they have cut ties with Mr Contreras after he altered an image to remove a video camera from it

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The Independent Online

The Associated Press has announced they have “severed ties” with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Narciso Contreras after he doctored a photo taken of the conflict in Syria.

News agency AP said it has ended its relationship with Mr Contreras and will remove all of his images from its publicly available photo archive.

Mr Contreras was among of a team of five photographers who shared the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography from the Syrian war.

The news agency said Mr Contreras recently told its editors he had manipulated a digital picture of a Syrian rebel fighter taken last September, using software to remove a colleague's video camera from the lower left corner of the frame.

A review led by Santiago Lyon, the vice president and director of photography, of 494 other pictures taken by Mr Contreras found this was an isolated incident and no other images had been altered since he joined AP in 2012.

But AP said the alteration breached its requirements for truth and accuracy even though it involved a corner of the image with little news importance.

"AP's reputation is paramount and we react decisively and vigorously when it is tarnished by actions in violation of our ethics code," Mr Lyon said. "Deliberately removing elements from our photographs is completely unacceptable."

Mr Contreras said on Wednesday he removed the video camera from the frame because he thought it might distract viewers. In the image of a fighter ducking for cover, his fellow journalist's video camera was initially visible on the ground at one corner of the frame. He said he "cloned" other pieces in the background and pasted them over the camera to obscure it from view, before filing the image with AP.

"I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera ... I feel ashamed about that," he said. "You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences."

Additional reporting by Associated Press