Associated Press has published the altered image, along with the original shot, on its website

The Associated Press (AP) said it has ‘severed ties’ with Narciso Contreras who captured the image of a Syrian opposition fighter taking cover from government forces in a mountain-top village on 29 September last year.

AP explained that using software to remove the journalist’s video camera in the left corner of the frame – by cloning other pieces of the background and pasting them over the camera – ‘violated its ethical standards’.

Contreras told the agency that he believed the video camera might ‘distract viewers’ and this was a single case that probably happened at one ‘very stressed moment’.

The Mexican-born photographer, who notified AP of his actions only recently, said he regretted the decision and feels ‘ashamed’.

The alteration breached AP’s requirements for truth and accuracy even though it involved a corner of the image with little news importance, according to the agency’s director of photography Santiago Lyon.

When Contreras told the agency’s editors of the manipulation, AP reviewed nearly 500 other photos he had filed since he started working for AP in 2012.

Despite finding no other instances of alteration, AP has cut its links with the photographer and pledged to remove all his photos from its publicly available archive.

Lyon said that while the agency tolerates photographers’ use of software to lighten or darken photos it will not countenance ‘manipulation of a scene that was not true to reality’.

Contreras, who also freelances for other news organisations, added: ‘It happened to me, so I have to accept the consequences.’

For more see the Associated Press website