News Service Apologizes to Famed Photojournalist for Using Old, Pirated Syria Image for Iraq Crisis

It’s not often that news agencies offer public apologies to photojournalists for misuse of their images but AFP (Agence France-Presse) has done just that. Michèle Léridon, global news director for AFP, posted a lengthy mea culpa to New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario on the agency’s Facebook page on Friday.

In the Facebook post, Léridon apologizes to Addario for AFP mistakenly sharing a photo she captured of Syria in 2013 for the New York Times on AFP’s news wire, and identifying it as being from the Sinjar area in Iraqui Kurdistan, where a current humanitarian crisis is taking place. To make matters worse, AFP attributed the image to a freelance photo stringer, not to Addario.

“At AFP, we are all aware of Lynsey Addario's great reputation and have immense respect for her work - which makes this mistake even more painful,” Léridon wrote. “We would like to assure Lynsey Addario, the New York Times and all our subscribers that we will take every measure possible to avoid any such mistakes in the future, and that very serious steps are being taken to find where we failed in the editorial process and rebuild confidence in the strength of our ethical and editorial standards.”

Léridon noted that AFP had been “led to believe” it was shot by the photo stringer in the Sinjar area of Iraq. Soon after AFP discovered its mistake, the agency issued a “Mandatory Kill,” of the image (see above), asking wire subscribers not to use the photo, she wrote.

Addario fired back a response in the Facebook comments under Léridon post, saying the agency should be more careful, particularly in this age of dodgy citizen journalism and increased photo piracy.

“Please note AFP public apology for syndicating one of my photographs after an Iraqi stringer filed to AFP a low res version of my photo, originally shot on assignment for the New York Times in August 2013, and claimed it his own,” Addario wrote.

“While I appreciate the apology from AFP, one issue remains clear: AFP accepted and syndicated a low-res, pirated image without recognizing or questioning its authenticity. We have entered a time where news organizations are increasingly buying material from citizen journalists and amateur photographers who have not been schooled in the basic ethics of photojournalism, and editors and photographers need to be more vigilant when they buy and syndicate work.”