Photos of Khmer Rouge “killing fields” with additional smiles were an insult to the dead, Cambodia says.
Cambodia called on US media group Vice to remove an article featuring newly colored photos of Khmer Rouge victims “killing fields”, saying the images were an insult to the dead because some photos had been edited to add smiles.
Sunday at 12:00 GMT, the article was no longer available on the Vice.com site.
In the article published Friday, artist Matt Loughrey said his project to colorize images of the notorious Tuol Sleng Prison, or S-21, aimed to humanize the 14,000 Cambodians executed and tortured there.
However, the article sparked a backlash on social media after comparisons to the original black-and-white photos showed some subjects only smiled in Loughrey’s color images. The Vice article did not contain the original images.
“To play using technology to make up the victims of S21… is a very serious insult to the souls of the victims of the #genocide,” wrote the Cambodian politician in exile Mu Sochua on Twitter.
Play using technology to make up the victims of S21 or the Cambodian #Auchwitz is unacceptable and must be stopped. It is a very serious insult to the souls of the victims of #genocide . https://t.co/HtnKG4Lmlq
– MuSochua (@sochua_mu) April 10, 2021
Photojournalist John Vink said on Twitter: “Matt Loughrey in Vice does not color S21 photographs. He falsifies history.
Another Twitter user, journalist E Quinn Libson mentionned: “It’s one thing to do these touch-ups in private, on demand, for a family who has lost a loved one. It’s another thing to publish them. What was @VICE thinking? “
The Cambodian Ministry of Culture issued a statement calling on Loughrey and Vice to remove the footage.
“We urge researchers, artists and the public not to manipulate any historical source to respect the victims,” the ministry said.
Loughrey, who in the Vice interview said he worked with the families of the victims to restore the photos, did not immediately comment.
Correct the recording
Vice added an editor’s note on Sunday, before the article later disappeared from the site.
“It has come to our attention that the restored portraits published in this article have been altered beyond colorization. We are reviewing the article and considering further actions to correct the file, ”he said.
Youk Chhang, director of the Cambodia Documentation Center, compared the alterations to rewriting history. An online petition calling for the article to be removed has garnered thousands of signatures.
At least 1.7 million Cambodians died during Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
Matt Loughrey in Vice does not color S21 photographs. He falsifies the story: pic.twitter.com/z6J99J7BOE
– John Vink (@vinkjohn) April 10, 2021