Zone of Peace
Outrage About Fake Photograph Of Antelopes, Tibet railway
22 February 2008
(Wall Street Journal; Xinhua; CCTV; Chengdu Business Daily; Daqing Evening News)
Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, issued a public apology for publishing a
doctored photograph of endangered Tibetan antelopes (chiru) apparently
frolicking near the Qinghai-Tibet railway. The picture shot by Liu Weiqing, a
wildlife photographer from the Daqing Evening News, featured dozens of antelope
galloping peacefully across the Tibetan landscape, unfazed as the train raced
beside them. It was captioned "Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for
wildlife". Liu claimed to have waited in a pit for eight days for the antelope
to pass at precisely the same moment as the train. He spent several months on
the Tibetan Plateau for a highly publicized series by the Daqing Evening News
meant to raise awareness of the rare Tibetan antelope. Liu who was also under
contract with Xinhua said "I wanted to capture the harmony among the Tibetan
antelope, the train, men and nature". In late 2006, Liu's picture was declared
one of the top ten "Photographs of the year" by CCTV, China's state-run
television network. The endangered antelope has recently emerged as a symbol of
China's environmental-protection efforts. It is one of the five official mascots
of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Suspicions about the photo emerged after its display in Beijing's subway system.
Chinese internet users finally uncovered the deception. Cornered by the mounting
evidence, Liu admitted he had indeed used Photoshop to blend two pictures. Liu
resigned from the Daqing Evening News and posted a statement on his blog. "I
have no reason to continue my sacred career as a newsman", he wrote, "I am not
qualified for the job". His editor then resigned too, and the newspaper posted
an apology on its website. CCTV posted a statement saying it was revoking Mr.
Liu's award. Xinhua and several other government news organisations published an
apology for circulating the photo. They said they would delete all of Liu's
images from their databases. The issue has brought on new debates about media
ethics and the environmental sustainability of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
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