Cambodian officials have criticized the artist after he changed the photo of the victims of the Khmer Rouge massacre.
Irish artist Matt Lafrey colored images of photographs taken at the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison. Smiles have been reportedly added to some faces.
In a sub-article that was later deleted, Loughrey stated that he wanted to humanize the victims.
The brutal government, which came to power between 1975 and 1979, claimed the lives of up to 2 million people.
The Cambodian Ministry of Culture said the image changes affected the “dignity of the victims” and called on both Loughrey and Vice to remove them.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is said to be the legitimate owner of the image. The ministry has vowed to take legal action if “Matt Lafray does not obey.”
“We urge researchers, artists, and the general public not to manipulate historical materials to respect their victims,” he said.
Loughrey told the BBC that he couldn’t comment until he talked to Vice. The media organization did not respond to requests for comment.
What did the image show?
Loughrey colored images of victims of S-21 prison in the capital Phnom Penh. More than 15,000 people died there.
These images were featured in Vice’s profile work.
Loughrey said the project had a “big response” and added that he was in talks with the museum about making the images accessible to everyone.
When asked about smiles by a secondary magazine, he said that women looked more smiling than men in the pictures he saw.
“I think a lot of it is related to tension,” he said. “Also, I’m guessing based on my knowledge, but anyone who was taking a picture and was in the room might have spoken differently than a man.”
The article does not mention the addition of a smile.
The following disclaimers were updated before the article was deleted: “We found that the restored portrait published in this article has changed beyond coloring. We review the article and are considering further actions to correct the record.”
How was the reaction?
On Saturday, many people on Twitter posted the original image of the allegations along with colored photos, saying that a smile was added.
This led to a big backlash in Cambodia.
One tweeter, Munthit Ker, said: “There is no word that can completely explain the horrifying emotions hidden behind the face that I knew would soon march to the mass grave. It’s unfriendly and aggressive!”
One of the women, Lydia, said she was the niece of the person in Lafrey’s photo. She said his smirk wasn’t edited, but said that the information Loughrey gave about him in an interview with Vice was incorrect.
According to the article, her uncle was a farmer who was electrocuted and lit.
“I don’t know exactly how he died. There may be records that we haven’t seen,” she tweeted. “But the rest is wrong. He was not a farmer, but an elementary school teacher. It is impossible for Lafrey to contact his son because his only child died.”
“Responsible journalism is especially important when it comes to telling the story of the actual victims of the horrific genocide. These people have family and loved ones,” she added.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, located on the site of a former prison, said the modified photo “has a serious impact on the dignity of the victims.”
Who was the Khmer Rouge?
The administration, led by Pol Pot, sought to bring Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, the “zero year,” forcing millions of people from the city to work on rural communal farms.
They initially targeted “intellectuals” (often identified as those who wear glasses or speak foreign languages) and those involved in the old US-backed regime they overthrew. did. However, their delusional leaders later began to see “enemy” everywhere.
Cambodian Vietnamese and Cham Muslims were also targeted. Many of the Khmer Rouge victims died of hunger, illness and overwork.
The administration was expelled by Vietnamese troops in 1979, but Khmer Rouge leaders fled and continued to resist the new Vietnamese-backed government from areas along the Thai-Cambodian border.
The United Nations helped establish a referee to test surviving leaders, which began operations in 2009.
So far, only three former Khmer Rouge have been sentenced to prison, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid-Head of State Khieu Samphan and Deputy Commander of Pol Pot. One Nuon Chea died last year after being convicted of Genocide. Pol Pot himself died in 1998.