Worker fired over altered photo tweet

Digital Content

A staff member who made comments on Twitter about an altered photograph published in the Citizen was dismissed on Thursday, according to a statement on the newspaper's website. “A disciplinary hearing under an independent, external chairperson found him guilty on two charges.”

These were bringing the company name into disrepute by making defamatory comments on Twitter and irretrievably damaging the trust relationship between employer and employee.

The Citizen also warned of the potential consequences of making irresponsible comments on social networks.

“An employer, company or institution has a responsibility to take action when it and its employees are defamed and false information about them is spread.

“In the matter of the 'cloned' photograph published on September 19, the company has dealt individually with all people who had a role in the serious error.”

The image in question was that of a suicide attack on a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which eight South Africans were killed.

At the time, editor Martin Williams said a decision was taken to blur the bodies shown in the photograph as the picture was too gory to publish in its original form.

Instead, the bodies were digitally removed from the image in error.

According to a report on the Mail & Guardian's website the dismissed empoyee was photograher Johann “Slang” Hattingh.

Hattingh drew attention to the newspaper's use of a photograph, sourced from Agence France-Presse, which had been altered to remove the bodies of two South Africans killed in the blast. He tweeted about the Citizen's use of the image shortly after it went to press.

At his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, Hattingh argued that the page should have been checked by senior editorial staff and as such it was they - not him - who had brought the company name into disrepute.

Hattingh told the M&G: “I'm quite disappointed with the outcome but obviously I'll take it up further with the (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration)”. - Sapa