The article on the front page of Thursday’s edition of prestigious Spanish newspaper El Pais is titled “Chavez’s secret illness”. Accompanying it is a large photo of a man, lying down, with medical tubes in his mouth. The text describes the man as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. It also specifies that El Pais “wasn’t able to independently verify the conditions under which this photo was taken, nor when or where it was taken,” adding that “Cuba’s political situation and restrictions imposed upon media there made this impossible to verify.”
Twitter users intrigued by this scoop quickly launched their own investigation. Ernesto G. Aroca (@Ernex) seems to be the first to have found out where the photo came from. The photo is in fact a screen capture from a video posted on YouTube in 2008 showing a patient being operated on. Nothing to do, then, with Venezuela’s president, who is currently being treated for cancer in Cuba.
The screen capture was taken at 2 minutes and 34 seconds into the video.
After having taken the photo down from their site, El Pais’ editors issued an apology, explaining that they had made a mistake and that the photo had been offered to them by “a press agency who said this was Hugo Chavez”.
El Pais’ editors also announced they had launched an investigation into the incident. The press agency in question, which mostly deals in entertainment news, has so far refused to comment on the matter.
A new, corrected version of Thursday’s print version of El Pais has been issued.