VICE Asia removes article with altered S21 photos, issues apology

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum are colourised and altered to show them smiling. Facebook

VICE Asia has removed an article featuring Irish photographer Matt Loughrey from its website and issued a letter of apology to the families of the victims of the Khmer Rouge and to the Cambodian people.

The article and interview with Loughrey was focused on his colourised versions of the black and white photos of Khmer Rouge victims at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum that he used in a project titled “These People Were Arrested by the Khmer Rouge and Never Seen Again”.

However, Loughrey did not mention that he had also photoshopped the pictures so that the subjects were smiling in them and the interviewer apparently was not astute enough to notice it for themselves and was unaware of the changes beyond the addition of colour.

The retraction of the article came after intense local and international criticism was levied at the publication and artist, with the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts threatening legal action.

VICE Asia issued a statement saying that after reviewing the situation it was determined that the story did not meet its editorial standards and was therefore removed.

“We regret the error and will investigate how this failure of our editorial process occurred,” the statement said.

“We have been taking the time over the past few days to review what has happened with the Matt Loughrey article. We are deeply sorry for any pain this has caused and sincerely apologise to the families of the victims and the communities in Cambodia.

“We have begun outreach in private with community groups and individuals to address this. We continue to strive for the highest level of rigor when it comes to these checks and balances in our stories and will redouble these efforts to ensure this does not happen again,” said the letter.

The culture ministry said VICE Asia’s editors wrote a letter of apology as well.