Spanish Newspaper Prints Fake Photo of Chavez

PHOTO:  El Pais front page on January 24 2013, edition which had to be removed from newsstands.

On Wednesday night an image that supposedly depicted Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez intubated in the hospital was published by Spanish newspaper El Pais' website. Shortly after the image hit social networks people on the web started pointing out that the image was in fact a screenshot of a 2008 YouTube video. The person in that video was not even Chavez.

El Pais deleted the online version and tweet as soon as they received an avalanche of tweets mocking their verification skills. Problem was the image was also on the front cover of the printed version of the newspaper, which was already being distributed to newsstands.

El Pais was not the only paper to which the image was offered. According to Pedro J. Ramirez, director of El Mundo, they were asked for 30,000 euros for this "exclusive" image of Chavez. Ramirez said on Twitter that his call for not buying the photo was that Chavez deserves his dignity.

The image is a screen grab of this video, which shows a patient being intubated for a procedure. There is a resemblance to President Chavez, and that seemed to be enough for one of the leading newspapers in Spain.

El Pais had to recall all newspapers from stands and issue an apology. The paper pointed to Gtres Online as the agency in charge of distributing the image. They also added in Spanish that "the text that accompanied the image reaffirmed that EL PAIS had not been able to verify independently the circumstances, place or date in which this photo was taken."

This image also opens up the debate about whether it is ok for news outlets to use such private and delicate images. It is not the first time that such an image hit the stands in Spain. Back in 1984 an image of dictator Francisco Franco lying on his deathbed was the cover of La Revista magazine.

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