Leading article: Caught in the act

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Oh dear. Robert Capa's famous Spanish Civil War photo of a militiaman falling at the very moment of his death is probably a fake. It's been uncovered that there was no military action that day in the place where it was taken.

It's not the only example. A similar row has raged for years about the iconic 1945 pic by Joe Rosenthal showing a group of US marines raising their standard on the mountain top over the Battle of Iwo Jima. Then there is the famous image of a Russian soldier hoisting the red flag over burning Berlin, which was doctored to remove one of the soldier's wristwatches lest he fall foul of Stalin's "no looting" rule.

Does it matter? The question takes us to the heart of the difference between literal and poetic truth. Either way it's a great photo. But should it be displayed in an art gallery or a history book? As a newspaper we adhere to the epithet that "facts are sacred" – even in, or especially in, this age of internet virtual reality.

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