BASRA, IRAQ
MARCH 30, 2003
PHOTO BY BRIAN WALSKI / THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

REPRESENTATION:
The photograph, taken in the earliest days of the Iraq invasion, shows a British soldier warning a group of Iraqi civilians to take cover from nearby fire. First published on the front of The Los Angeles Times, the image also ran in the Chicago Tribune and the Hartford Courant. The caption published in the March 31, 2003 Los Angeles Times reads: “Warning: A British soldier manning the Azubayr Bridge orders fleeing Basra residents to hit the dirt as Iraqi forces open fire.”

REALITY:
The published photo is a composite of two images taken seconds apart. After the Hartford Courant published the image, a Courant employee noticed a duplication of civilians in the background. The Los Angeles Times confronted Walski, who confessed to having digitally merged the two photographs to improve the composition. 

Walski was immediately fired for violating the newspaper’s code of ethics. In an apology to the Times, Walski said: “I have always maintained the highest ethical standards throughout my career and cannot truly explain my complete breakdown in judgment at this time.”
 

"The widely published image, of an armed British soldier and Iraqi civilians under hostile fire in Basra seems to show the soldier gesturing at the civilians – urging them to seek cover – as a standing man holding a young child in his arms seems to look at the soldier imploringly. It's the kind of picture that wins a Pulitzer."
- The Washington Post, "Manipulating Truth, Losing Credibility"


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Image copyright Brian Walski