Earlier today, Egypt's Al-Ahram, a state-run newspaper, told The Associated Press it stands behind the decision to publish an altered photograph from the White House, taken at the start of Mideast peace talks, saying the image was meant to illustrate how key a role Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is playing in the negotiations:
In the original photograph, the leaders are walking to the East Room at the White House. President Obama is in the vanguard position, with, from left to right, Mubarak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Mubarak is at the front of the pack of leaders in the doctored image. Some parts of the photograph have been inverted. Notice his necktie, pointing to the right, for example.
The doctored photograph, seen in a screenshot from Al-Ahram.
In an interview with NPR's David Greene, Adel T. Iskandar, a lecturer at Georgetown University, said that Al-Ahram is "one of the most substantial publications in the Arab world," and while it isn't uncommon for the Egpytian press to doctor photographs for cosmetic reasons, "in this particular case, it was a very, very blatant action — and of course it has lots of political implications."
An Egyptian blogger, Wael Khalil, noticed the discrepancies between the two images. Iskandar says that, while Khalil isn't particularly famous, "he is becoming increasingly influential."
He and many other bloggers are starting to turn to media monitoring. They're essentially media watchdogs, to monitor what the traditional press in Egypt is failing to deliver, as far as hard-hitting, real news.
According to the AP, "the newspaper's editor-in chief, Osama Saraya, lashed out at critics in an editorial Friday, pointing out the original photo was published the day the talks began and the doctored version was only meant to illustrate Egypt's leading role in the Mideast peace process, not to change the story."
"The expressionist photo is ... a brief, live and true expression of the prominent stance of President Mubarak in the Palestinian issue, his unique role in leading it before Washington or any other," Saraya wrote. The photo is still posted on the newspaper's website.