AP cut its ties with photographer Narciso Contreras after he admitted removing another journalist’s video camera from one of the photos he had submitted to the news agency.

The agency said Contreras recently told its editors he had manipulated the photo which was captured last September.

Speaking last night, Contreras told Amateur Photographer: ‘I’m ashamed about this but I’m not ashamed about doing what I strongly believe is my duty in life, as a simple person and as a photographer.’

The Pulitzer Prize winner said he is a ‘living example’ for other professionals and aspiring photojournalists ‘of what is not correct to do’, adding: ‘Please take my unfortunate decision as a golden lesson.’

In a lengthy statement, the Mexico-born photographer pledged to continue his work as a freelance photojournalist.

‘I didn’t try to hide my mistake. I prevented one of the AP editors from using the altered picture recently and it brought me severe consequences in my working relationship with the news agency….

‘The industry will be shaken for a while but… we need the public punishment to teach others…’

The photographer’s work is widely published, having appeared in newspapers including The Guardian, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and magazines such as Time and National Geographic.

However, The Guardian‘s head of photography Roger Tooth says AP made the right decision in sacking him.

‘The Guardian has the same guidelines for news photography: no cloning, no retouching,’ said Tooth in a blog for the newspaper.

‘The sad irony for Contreras is that if he had just cropped his image, everyone would be happy and he would still have his contract,’ he claimed.

Contreras added: ‘Nothing has changed for me in terms of what I assume as my duty in life and my commitment to document what I perceive as the breaking moments [in] our history…

‘I ask you not to close your eyes to the suffering and injustice of this world.

‘Neither do I ask you to put me on the highest pedestal or under the lowest consideration. I’m not the story. I don’t believe that we, as witnesses, are the story.’