Posted at 10:24 AM ET, 07/13/2011

Did Syrian media alter pictures of President Bashar al-Assad?

A handout picture from the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on Monday shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, receives the new governor of the central city of Hama, Anas Naim. (- - AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Syrian Arab News Agency)
While the political unrest in Syria is undeniably real, photos of President Bashar al-Assad swearing in Anas Abdul-Razzaq Naem, the new governor of Hama, may not be.

Questions about the photos, released by the official Syrian Arabs News Agency on Monday, were first raised by the Guardian.The British paper’s photo expert, David McCoy, said that it appears two photos have been merged. If you look closely at President Assad, the man of the right, one of his shoes appears to be sticking out in front of the table leg. (See a close-up below.)

We have reached out to SANA and will update this post if we receieve comment. In the meantime, we asked Washington Post Web photo editors Dan Murano and Troy Witcher for their opinions on the above picture.

A close up of Assad’s foot that appears to be in front of a table leg. (Correction: this caption incorrectly identified the foot as Naim’s foot.)
Murano said the photo appears to have “undergone some serious Photoshop work.” He said ths photo “looks as if someone selected the the bodies and heads with the lasso tool and then adjusted the contrast and brightness, leaving a black outline at the tool’s selection boundary.”

To Witcher, it’s an issue with the men’s hair that stands out. In the photo, there aren’t any strands of al-Assad’s hair out of place, “which is usually a clear sign that the lasso or paths tool has been used as well as some feathering, which is also used when copying part of an image and placing it in another.”

Feather “gives the cut out image a more natural feel in the environment it’s pasted in,” Witcher said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meeting with the new governor of the central city of Hama, Anas Naim. (- - AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Syrian Arab News Agency)

This is not the first time that pictures released by state controlled media outlets have been altered in recent history, as the Guardian points out. Egypt’s state-run newspaper, Al-Ahram, released a doctored photo of then President Hosni Mubarak leading other heads of state down a hallway at a summit meeting. In reality, President Obama was leading the pack.

In June, a local government in China released a photo of three officials on a road who were seemingly levitating. The Huili government apologized, saying the photo was posted “out of error,” China Daily reported.

Do you think these latest photos have been altered? Let us know in the comments.

By  |  10:24 AM ET, 07/13/2011

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