Sunday 22 September 2019

This photo from Rex Tillerson’s Afghanistan visit has apparently been mysteriously altered

Can you spot what’s missing?

Rex Tillerson and Ashraf Ghani.
Rex Tillerson and Ashraf Ghani.

By Nilima Marshall

A photo of the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is raising questions after reports that it has been digitally manipulated.

Tillerson made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Monday where he met with the Afghan leader and other senior officials to discuss the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy.

Images and video posted by the US State Department show the politicians in a windowless room at Bagram Airfield – the biggest American military base in Afghanistan.

Tillerson and Ghani are sitting under a digital clock and a red fire alarm.

But the Afghan government website posted a similar photo – except the clock and the alarm was missing.

Rex Tillerson and Ashraf Ghani.

The digital clock in the US State Department’s images shows “Zulu” time – which is the military term for GMT.

Hany Farid, a professor at Dartmouth and an expert on doctored images, told The New York Times: “There is no question that the photo has been manipulated.”

According to the NYT, the altered photo could be seen by many Afghans “as evidence of a government effort to twist facts to package a positive narrative, both to its international partners as well as its citizens”.

Rex Tillerson and Ashraf Ghani.

The apparent doctoring of the image suggests an attempt to give the impression that the meeting took place in Kabul, rather than a US military base.

Neither side has offered an explanation about the discrepancy, although both sides initially said that the meeting took place in Kabul.

The US State Department later issued a correction, saying it had taken place at Bagram.

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