- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Associated Press says it has severed ties with a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance photographer who admitted to altering a photo he took while covering the war in Syria last year.

The news agency said Wednesday that Narciso Contreras manipulated a digital picture, using software to edit a colleague’s video camera out of the lower left corner of the frame.

An investigation showed that no other photos were altered; however, all of Mr. Contreras‘ images were deleted from AP’s publicly available archive and he has been terminated from the agency.

“AP’s reputation is paramount and we react decisively and vigorously when it is tarnished by actions in violation of our ethics code,” said the wire’s vice president Santiago Lyon. “Deliberately removing elements from our photographs is completely unacceptable.”

Mr. Contreras expressed regret for altering the photo and said he removed the camera out of fear it would distract viewers.

In a photo taken, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, a Syrian opposition fighter takes cover during an exchange of fire with government forces in Telata village, a frontline located at the top of a mountain in the Idlib province countryside of Syria. In the original image (top photo), a fellow journalist’s video camera is visible on the ground in the left corner of the frame. Freelance photographer Narciso Contreras altered the image (lower photo) by “cloning” other pieces of the background and pasting them over the camera, before sending it to an AP photo desk. The Associated Press has severed ties with the freelance photographer, who it says violated its ethical standards by altering the photo. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
In a photo taken, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, a Syrian opposition fighter ... more >

“I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera … I feel ashamed about that,” he said Wednesday. “You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences.”

Mr. Contreras, a Mexican citizen, was among a team of five photographers who shared the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography from the Syrian conflict.