- Opinions from Africa -


By Helle Maj and Jørn Stjerneklar:

OBS: This is an update of our previous blog
"Musical chairs?"

Marco Vernaschi has won both the World Press Photo award in the news category 2010 and the PGB news award for a series of pictures from Guinea-Bissau. It is photos with a lot of style. But can you call them news pictures?

The picture below is not taken by Marco Vernaschi.

The picture shows the chair where the president of Guinea-Bissau was killed. It is footage from the Portuguese TV-station SIC taken on the same day as Marco Vernaschi took his photo from the house.

Marco Vernaschi´s picture is a different story as you can see below. Here you suddenly have a magazine on the chair with blood, a bullet proof vest and a machete in the picture.

To be fair to Mr. Vernaschi there was a magazine on a chair in the house. But that chair did not look as dramatic. It was without blood.

The magazine was moved to the chair with the blood. A bullet proof vest landed on the chair without blood. But even with the vest and the magazine in the picture the photographer was not satisfied - the photo needed a final touch. Like a machete. It was on the floor, but not in the right position. Here it was: Laying in the doorway leading to the next room.

And here is how a staged winning news picture looks in 2010.

World Press Photo has been informed about this staged photo. They have chosen not to investigate. On Thursday they wrote to us:

"Marco Vernaschi provided us the the RAW files of his story. Our experts carefully assessed the files and did not find any irregularities conflicting with the rules of the World Press Photo Contest. We are satisfied and see no reason to take futher action regarding the prizewinning story of Marco Vernaschi. I hope I have informed you sufficiently on this matter".

Marco Vernaschi´s RAW files cannot prove that his photo was staged. It is the pictures and footage made by other people, who were at the scene the same day as Mr. Vernaschi, that can do this. We know of at least two other journalists filming the room on that day. There is also a nephew of the dead president one could ask. The one who showed journalists and cameramen around the house.

When Marco Vernaschi got the award from PGB for his picture of the presidents chair, Pieter Ten Hoopen, a member of the international jury, said:

"It´s a picture that asks many questions".

We agree with this statement. And rest our case.

Why digging up dead bodies and photographing them is a bad idea.