CAIRO // Opponents of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak are outraged that the nation's largest newspaper published a photograph of him that it apparently altered to make him appear more vigorous. Al Ahram, Egypt's oldest and largest circulation state-owned daily, published the photo on Tuesday. The altered photo shows Mr Mubarak striding ahead of a group of politicians during a meeting last week at the US White House.
In the unaltered photo, US President Barack Obama is leading the group, which includes Mr Mubarak, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, the Jordanian King Abdullah and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The men were there to discuss the Middle East peace talks. Egypt's largest circulating independent daily, Al Masry Al Youm, exposed the alteration on Wednesday. It published the original and the doctored photos, saying that Al Ahram had "surgically" intervened "so Mubarak can lead while others lag behind".
The opposition group 6th April Movement condemned the alteration. "It's a desperate attempt to cover up for Mubarak's deteriorating health and shrinking of Egypt's role in the regional and international arena," Ahmed Maher, a leader with the group, said. "Revealing their forgery and fakeness is very important." Al Ahram has not responded to the allegations, and its chief board and editor in chief did not return several calls from The National.
Mr Mubarak's health is a sensitive issue. There were reports in some Israeli and international media in July that the 82-year-old leader has terminal cancer. Soliman Awwad, the presidential spokesman, has dismissed these reports as rumours and said that "those working with president Mubarak can't keep up with his relentless activities". The newspaper published the altered photo with a story about the second round of Middle East peace talks in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Hisham Kassem, former publisher of Al Masry Al Youm. "What they've done has backfired." A blogger named Zenobia wrote in her blog, the Egyptian Chronicles: "Al Ahram thinks that we are still living in the Nasserite era where it can change facts as much it could and nobody will pay attention. I always know that they edit news but I did not know that they edit photos."