Israel photographer Tomer Ifrah has challenged comments about his documentary on Azerbaijan that were attributed to him by the Guardian newspaper. In an interview to a Region Plus correspondent, he explained that the British paper had attributed to him whole paragraphs attacking Baku.
Region Plus exposed the Guardian’s distortion, comparing its report with the original that was published in another paper, The Calvert Journal.
It transpired that Ifrah’s report about Azerbaijan had already been published in various European publications and was accompanied by only positive comments by the author. The Guardian reprinted this article from the Calvert Journal, adding paragraphs with anti-Azerbaijani comments which the Armenian press had also picked up. Furthermore, the Guardian changed the title of the piece to a different one which had nothing in common with the spirit and context of the Israeli journalist’s report.
Tomer, do you have something to do with the article featured in the Guardian? Has the Guardian got your consent to publish your eye-witness report about Azerbaijan in such a changed form?
Initially I offered the project that I photographed in Azerbaijan to the writer of The Calvert Journal, TCJ is a highly respected publication based in London and they cover stories from Russia and all the post Soviet union countries. They also work closely with major publications such as "The Guardian" and "Business Insider". Some stories that get published in The Calvert Journal are chosen by those major publications and they publish these stories/projects it in their own version, as they choose. The same thing happened with the project from Azerbaijan, after I was Interviewed by the writer of The Calvert Journal, the project, with the pictures and interview was published on the The Calvert Journal website. This is the link: http://calvertjournal.com/features/show/4162/contemporary-azerbaijan-tomer-ifrah-photography-diary-travel
A few days after this publication, wonderful comments came from different places in the world, then I was contacted by the writer of The Calvert Journal, she said that The Guardian are interested in publishing the photos from Azerbaijan and they are asking if I agree that the pictures will be publish on The Guardian website. I said yes and approved it (like I did in previous publications with them in the past). Other then the writer of the Calvert Journal I was not contacted by anyone else regarding the publication of The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2015/jun/11/baku-european-games-life-in-azerbaijan-in-pictures) .
Which quotations from the Guardian article, in particular, do not belong to you?
Next to each picture there is a caption, a short text that describe in one paragraph details about the project and general information about Azerbaijan. these captions are combined from two parts, one part is quotes of my words as they appear in the Calvert Journal interview, these quotas are mainly my description of which places we have visited, what did I photographed and so on. The second part of the text (captions) is of the The Guardian writer personal text, it's mainly referring to the 1st European Olympic games and other social and economical issues.
One thing needs to be clear, when my words were taken from The Calvert Journal interview to The Guardian publication, they used quotes ( 'example' ) as they should have used, but they appear so small that you can hardly notice them. The confusion comes from there, because when I'm quoted about the project information and the following is The Guardian writer text about the olympic games and other issues, it seems as if I said it.
To make things more simple: Everything that appear on The Calvert Journal article is things that I said, that and only that. Anything beyond that is not by me. Please read carefully the interview at The Calvert Journal.
It seems like your reportage has been used in assailing Azerbaijan? However, we know that you have nothing to do with politics and that of you actually have been set up…
This project was published in about 10 different publications internationally, including major publications such as "The Moscow Times", The American travel book "Roads&Kingdoms", "The Guardian" and in one of the biggest German daily newspaper "Die Welt". My experience from Azerbaijan was so wonderful and in all of those different publications interviews I describe in many ways how good my experience was, including in the interview I gave to The Calvert Journal. The other part of the text (that is not quoted) in The Guardian publication is on The Guardian responsibility only.
Are you going to take any actions in connection with this case?
I'm going to clarify the matter with the writer of The Calvert Journal since that she is the only contact I have regarding this publication
There is one thing that makes me really satisfied regarding the publication at The Guardian, most of the comments I get to this publication is about the pictures and how interesting the places look. People are surprised and impressed by the country, all the comments that I got was referring to the pictures, the small text on the side many times go un noticeable when there is a photo story.
Please, share your plans with us, are there any projects related to Azerbaijan you would like to carry on?
Of course! Iv'e been writing many emails about it and I'm waiting for the approval for a long time. I have planed it for a long time. It is landscapes project, in historical relation and also about the modern Azerbaijan. It will be in color this time, medium format film. I have done all the research for it and I can not wait to start. The project that I'm planning will get much much more attention on international media, it will result also in Exhibitions, international magazines, online publications but the main long term goal is a book that will tell the story of the country, something that will stay for many years. I'm currently working on a project in Sao Paolo but my first priority is the project in Azerbaijan. I'm really looking forward to your approval that we can start as soon as possible.
We now present the facts about the distortion in The Guardian newspaper as mentioned by T. Ifrah
1. The inoffensive headline in The Calvert Journal was changed by The Guardian into an anti-Azerbaijani one (marked in orange)
2. (a) The Guardian attributes to T. Ifrah things which he did not say. In the alleged quote by the photographer, consisting of two sentences (marked in orange), the first sentence is a distortion of what T. Ifrah actually said (changing the neutral word “different” to the negative “confounded” – underlined), and in the second sentence words are attributed to Ifrah which he never said: “People live in poverty… (underlined)
(b) Immediately after the quote The Guardian provides another invented sentence (marked in green). Furthermore, the use of barely noticeable quotation marks in the quote, which the paper doesn’t normally use, creates the false impression that the comments were made by T. Ifrah.
P.S. The British Guardian newspaper has published over 40 articles about Azerbaijan in the past month. It seemed there was nothing surprising in such intense interest by a European paper in a country where the first European Games in the history of world sport are now being held. The curious thing is that the European Games themselves are only mentioned a few times in the British paper, and then only as a pretext for attacking Azerbaijan. Of course, criticism against any country is quite normal, but when it is over the top the reader has the right to wonder what the “great concern” by a paper of one country about another is all about. And the exposure of the distortion, as in the case with the photographer Tomer Ifrah, leaves one in no doubt – The Guardian is infringing not only moral and ethical standards, but also British law. It should show respect for British – and world – readers, instead of trying to sell such a downright lie to them.