Chinese Official Under Fire for Claiming a Syria Photo Was From Afghanistan

Published January 30th, 2022 - 08:56 GMT
Lijian Zhao posted photos taken in Idlib claiming it was in Afghanistan
Lijian Zhao posted photos taken in Idlib claiming it was in Afghanistan. (Twitter)

Last week, a Chinese government official stirred social media anger after sharing photos from Syria claiming they were taken in Afghanistan before he took his tweet down.

Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Lijian Zhao tweeted four photos featuring children holding bullets and remains of missiles and bombs, saying it "shows the aftermath of 20 years of war in US-led war in Afghanistan."

However, online people were quick to flag the wrong location of the photos, especially after Idlib-based Syrian photojournalist, Ali Haj Suleiman, retweeted Zhao's post, saying he is the one who took these photos and that they were not from Afghanistan, but rather of war-torn Syria, where China supports the Russian-backed Syrian regime responsible for many massacres since 2011.

Lijian Zhao then removed his tweet but the controversy continued with commentators discussing the difficulty of tracking such claims of social media, especially ones that trigger strong reactions and push for political agendas. 

Others weighed on the legal consequences of using the work of photojournalists on social media without attributing it to them, especially by officials such as the Chinese government spokesperson, highlighting similar incidents in which Chinese media used videos and photos on social media without crediting photographers. 

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