Reuters uses activists as photographers in Syria

The New York Times

Reuters employs rebel activists and “in one case a spokesman” as photographers in Syria, James Estrin and Karam Shoumali write. In interviews with photographers there, they say there are more issues with the wire service’s practices:

Three [photographers] also said that the freelancers had provided Reuters with images that were staged or improperly credited, sometimes under pseudonyms. And while Reuters has given the local stringers protective vests and helmets, most said that the stringers lacked training in personal safety and first aid.


“We use activists in Syria partly because they have access and partly because you have to be among friends to be safe,” Reuters global editor Jim Gaines told the Times. The company “does not ‘as a general practice’ inform subscribers that activists took the photos,” Gaines said.

Reuters “has made it clear to The Times during their three months of reporting that their allegations were false, and we refuted in detail any specific examples of alleged wrongdoing that that they provided us,” a Reuters spokesperson says in an email to Poynter. The statement continues:

Except for anonymous allegations backed by no specific examples, the story provides no evidence that Reuters photographers have staged photos in Syria or anywhere else. We looked into the matter carefully and found no such instances. Staging photos is a firing offense, and Reuters would take appropriate action if we became aware of any instances of staging.

The Times “relies principally on wire services” for photos from rebel positions, Estrin and Shoumali write. It recently quoted Abdul-Rahman Ismael, identifying him as an activist, and also used one of his Reuters photographs.

Santiago Lyon, Associated Press vice president and director of photography, tells Poynter in an email that the news co-op “routinely monitors social media around the conflict in Syria and, after vetting for authenticity, sometimes uses photos and video provided by activist organizations but is always transparent about the nature of the source.”

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