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Harakah Claims Iconic ‘Black Eye’ PMX Photo Not Authentic, AP Disagrees

Harakah Claims Iconic ‘Black Eye’ PMX Photo Not Authentic, AP Disagrees

Allegations emerged about the iconic 1998 photo of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim with a black eye, with claims of doctoring by Harakah Daily.

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In a series of tweets yesterday, PAS mouthpiece Harakah Daily reported a startling claim regarding the iconic 1998 photograph of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim raising his hand sporting a black eye.

The publication labelled it an “exclusive exposé” and cited a retired media videographer, Hanafiah, who claimed to have taken the original photograph of Anwar with the black eye.


According to Harakah, the widely circulated photograph has been doctored.

In a video published by Harakah Daily, Hanafiah recounted that he captured the scene of Anwar arriving at the courthouse on video using a beta video camera.

However, Malaysiakini reported that Hanafiah admitted uncertainty regarding the still photograph being edited. He did, however, recall that Anwar was handcuffed when he arrived at the Petaling Jaya Court on 30 September 1998.

Despite Harakah Daily’s claims, Malaysiakini’s investigation discovered that the iconic photograph was, in fact, taken by Ed Wray for the news agency Associated Press (AP).

An AP photojournalist, Vincent Thian, verified the authenticity of the photograph, stating that he had scanned Wray’s negatives from that day and sent them to AP’s Bangkok office. He clarified that all negatives were swiftly couriered to the Bangkok office to avoid potential government raids.

Thian explained that the photograph was taken in a split second when Anwar was coming out of the courthouse and about to enter a police car.

“We were standing on the roadside outside of the PJ Court and the photo was taken when Anwar was coming out. It was a split second before he entered the police car,” Thian told Malaysiakini.

The photograph became emblematic during the Reformasi era, and it even garnered a letter of gratitude from Anwar himself while he was in prison, sent to the AP office in Bangkok.

Veteran photojournalist Zainal Abdul Halim, who missed capturing the moment, confirmed that Anwar’s hand did indeed go up.

However, in the world of photojournalism, if a photographer sees the picture while taking it, they have likely missed the shot. Zainal and other photojournalists faced difficulties on that day, as they had to contend with long lenses and about 20 police officers blocking their view of Anwar’s arrival and departure.

“So we had to try to get a photo of Anwar’s face, in between the police officers’ heads. Some of us did get the photo of his hand going up, but not his face, or we couldn’t see his black eye. Only AP got all three – his face, the black eye, and his hand raised,” Zainal explained.

Zainal emphasised that the photos were taken using film cameras, leaving photographers unsure of the outcomes until they scanned the negatives.

“So we would just start shooting in the general direction and hope for the best. Sometimes, we get lucky.

“There was no way the photo was edited because at the time we didn’t have the time or equipment to edit the photo. We didn’t even have time to develop them.”

He debunked any notions of photo manipulation, stating that they lacked the time and equipment for editing, and the urgency of the situation didn’t allow for such endeavours.

Zainal stated that during the Anwar trial, photojournalists would scan the negatives to check for usable images and send them to the regional bureaus overseas via courier on a daily basis.

In 1999, Reuters supplied him with a digital camera, mainly for covering the widely watched Anwar trial on a global scale.

Interestingly, the iconic pose of Anwar raising his hand has persisted over the years. He has recreated the gesture on numerous occasions during the course of his various trials.

The photograph’s significance has even extended to the big screen, being featured on a biopic poster about him.

Recently, Kedah caretaker Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor mimicked the pose during a court appearance.

Sanusi raised his fist in response to the media’s request as he departed the Selayang Sessions Court, where he faced charges of sedition on 18 July. This gesture subsequently turned into campaign fodder.

Facebook Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor

This action sparked a TikTok meme, with social media users replicating the pose to show support for Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Sanusi.

[Stay tuned for further updates and insights, as we continue to delve into the ongoing discussion surrounding this historical photograph.]

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