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Swiss News Editor Claims Most Combat Images From Libya Are “Fakes”

A veteran news editor at Switzerland's SF television network says apparently dramatic battleground images are being staged by insurgents for the benefit of photographers and cameramen...who are in on the game.

By Marc Brupbacher

Something like a civil war is raging in Libya as rebel insurgents and Muammar Gaddafi's troops are engaged in intense battles for Brega and Ajdabiyah in the east, and Az-Zawiyah in the West. Television stations around the world are showing a constant stream of explosive images out of the troubled nation. Now a news editor from the Swiss national television station SF is claiming that almost all of the pictures are contrived fakes.

In Libya people are being shot at, being forced into hiding or exile. The images are on our screens day and night - many TV news teams seem to be right in the thick of it. But appearances can be deceptive, says Helmut Scheben. Most of the pictures have been taken outside of the combat zone, Scheben claimed in an article Tuesday on the online portal Journal21.

"Most of the images of combat operations are set-ups," says Scheben, one of Switzerland's most experienced TV news editors. "This is a banal truth. Surely everyone knows that a cameraman can't go and film fighting at close range, unless he has a death wish."

Eating Soup During a Shootout

Scheben points to raw images sent out of Libya to the European VLIB Network (EVN) on Sunday over a period of 24 hours. Most of these pictures were clearly faked. "The flock of cameramen and photographers get out of their cars and then get the rebels to fire a few bursts from their Kalashnikovs while everything is filmed. Then one of them shoots a bazooka. He stands there and shoots randomly into the desert," Scheben was quoted as saying. "He isn't firing at anything but it really is a great picture."

Another example even shows people standing on the edge of the shot eating soup during what is supposed to be a skirmish between the two sides.

Swiss television isn't above showing faked images in the news. "Even at reputable channels like SF, ARD, ZDF and ORF, staged footage regularly finds its way into news items," Scheben told Tagesanzeiger.ch/News network. "It isn't always easy to determine in exactly what context the scenes were being filmed."

Nevertheless, the SF news program is now striving to be more transparent. On Tuesday's show SF correspondent Erwin Schmid pointed out during a report from Ras Lanuf that the soldiers had staged their shooting skills for journalists.
Helmut Scheben makes no bones about the fact that he doesn't like front-line coverage. Often these reports simulate hectic and dramatic scenes for the camera. SF news reports usually don't include combat images. Scheben says this should only be done if "it is made clear to viewers that the whole thing isn't real."

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