Lebanese presidential palace alters handout photo

Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — A government-produced picture of Lebanese officials posing with members of the new cabinet was altered to include a picture of the speaker of parliament who wasn't actually there, an official with the presidential palace has acknowledged.

The photo released Saturday portrays the Lebanese president, premier and parliament speaker posing outside the palace with members of the national unity government. The photo was distributed by The Associated Press and other news agencies.

Local journalists later noticed that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was not at the palace in the early afternoon when the picture was taken — and that the picture was doctored to include him.

Asked to comment about it on Sunday, Presidential media adviser Adib Abi Akl said: "So what?" He said the official photos were sent to the media and "it is your choice to use them or not."

Earlier, he said that according to the Lebanese protocol all the top three leaders — the president, prime minister and parliament speaker — have to be in the group photo. The first shot was taken with Berri and the ministers present, after which Berri, who was headed for Kuwait, had to leave for the airport. When the missing ministers arrived, the group stood again for a new picture without Berri, who was then added by Photoshop.

After learning of the photograph's manipulation on Sunday, the AP removed the image from its archives and issued an advisory to customers not to use it.

"Adding elements to a photograph is entirely unacceptable and is in clear violation of AP's standards," said AP vice president and director of photography Santiago Lyon.