Vice used to be a news outlet. Now I have no idea what to call them, to be honest.
Cambodia has condemned images published by Vice media group that featured victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide, colourised and with some apparently edited to add smiles to their faces.
The artist Matt Loughrey modified images taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of people were tortured and interrogated before they were sent on to the killing fields of Choeung Ek.
Detailed records were kept by jailers, who took black-and-white photographs of every prisoner. The images were profiled by Vice on Friday, in an article that has since been removed.
Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which maintains a vast archive of material relating to the Khmer Rouge, and a survivor himself, said his heart pounded when he saw revised versions of the photographs. “How can you change hell to happiness?” he said. “It was a grave injustice to the victims to alter such a piece of history, which is still a living history.”
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said it considered the edited images “to seriously affect the dignity of the victims” and called for them to be removed from publication, threatening legal action.
Vice said the report did not meet its editorial standards: “The article included photographs of Khmer Rouge victims that Loughrey manipulated beyond colorisation… We regret the error and will investigate how this failure of the editorial process occurred.”
In the interview with Vice, now removed, Loughrey said he began working on photographs from Tuol Sleng when he was contacted by someone in Cambodia who wanted three photographs – including one ID photo taken inside the prison – to be restored.