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Photographer 'sorry' for faking Tibetan antelope picture
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Liu Weiqiang’s award-wining picture. [File photo]

Netizens pose questions about the highlighted parts, which they point out are quite unnatural.

Five Chinese media outlets have terminated contracts with a photographer who faked a Tibetan antelope picture for a photo contest, amidst national criticism.

China Photomall, a photographic website founded by Xinhua News Agency, CNSPHOTO, the China News Service affiliate, and three other photographic media have co-issued a statement terminating their contracts with Liu Weiqing, a Daqing Evening News photographer.

The five blacklisted Liu and said in the statement that his behavior has "severely breached the ethical codes of journalists". Therefore, they terminated their contracts with him and decided to delete all of Liu's works from their database.

The 41-year-old photographer allegedly pieced together two photos into one to show more than 20 Tibetan antelopes roaming peacefully under a bridge of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

The photo, named "Qinghai-Tibet Railway opening green passageway for wild animals", was among the "10 most impressive news photos of 2006", an annual event sponsored by state media China Central Television (CCTV).

The photo was the subject of suspicion by Chinese netizens over the calmness of the antelopes to the roaring train, and has since drawn nationwide criticism.

Zoologists say Tibetan antelopes are easily disturbed by even the slightest sound. Yet the herds on Liu's photo were trotting calmly in an orderly queue.

Liu has confessed on Feb.16 in a interview with a Chengdu-base newspaper that he faked the picture, and published a personal statement on the Internet.

"I have no reason to continue my sacred career as a newsman. I am not qualified for the job. I have sent in my resignation to the newspaper.

"I am deeply sorry for bringing bad influences on the media involved, for the reviewers of the CCTV contest, for Daqing Evening News, the Daqing people and the Heilongjiang news circle," he said.

Liu has already resigned from the Daqing Evening News, based in the oil city Daqing of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, and published a personal statement to apologize.

His apology was followed on Sunday by the resigning of Wang Zhongyi, Daqing Evening News chief editor, and a public apology by the newspaper to the public for "failing to supervise Liu properly", according to the paper, despite the fact that his participation in the photo contest was his personal business.

Liu, born in the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, majored in Chinese literature at university and was an avid painter. He was a teacher for five years before he became a cameraman at an oil refinery in Daqing in 1995. He joined Daqing Evening News in 1997 and was also a senior member of the Chinese photographers' association.

He won a gold prize in a Chinese photo contest in 2002 with a picture featuring a sandstorm.

The antelope photo has inevitably reminded Chinese of the suspected fake South China tiger photo, allegedly shot by a farmer in Shaanxi Province in October, which caused a national controversy.

Zhou Zhenglong, from the mountainous Zhenping County, presented photos of the tiger he claimed were taken in the forest near his village.

The local forestry authority said the photos were proof the rare tiger still existed in the wild. But Internet users accused Zhou of making the tiger images with digital software, and local authorities of approving the photographs to bolster tourism.

In December, the State Forestry Administration demanded the provincial forestry department have the photo authenticated by a panel of experts. So far, no results have been published.

Two weeks ago, Shaanxi Forestry Department apologized for publicizing the photos, but said nothing about their authenticity.

(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)

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