Osama Bin Laden is dead – prove it

May 2, 2011

When the news broke that Osama Bin Laden was dead, at the Reuters Global Pictures Desk in Singapore all we could think was one thing: We have to see the picture of the dead body. The world needed the tangible proof of a genuine photo before we could really absorb the idea that the world’s most sought and also most elusive Islamic extremist was dead. We also knew that the news agency that was first in sending a picture of his dead body to the world would go a long way to winning this historic story. Sending out a fake picture could be very embarrassing to say the least – a tough balancing act when under such pressure.

A few hours later there it was circulating on the internet: Osama Bin Laden’s bloodied face in a video transmitted by a TV station in Pakistan. Under tremendous pressure we could get the picture and fed it into our picture editing system in preparation for transmission around the globe.

But was it really Osama? It was rumoured that the source was US military but the editors on the Global Picture Desk found inconsistencies that immediately made us suspicious. There was odd pixilation and blurring and his face was darker in some areas than others. The biggest problem was that the picture looked familiar somehow. Quickly looking through dozens of our archive pictures we found that the bottom half of Osama Bin Laden’s face was identical to a picture of him speaking at a news conference in 1998. After flipping the picture 180 degrees and overlaying it with the picture of the dead Osama Bin Laden we had a perfect match. It was a fake.

The fake picture was locked in our system so that it couldn’t be sent out but would be saved for future training exercises. Meanwhile, the fake picture quickly gained momentum in cyber space.

We’re still waiting for that genuine picture of the body of Osama Bin Laden.

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