British politician called out for sharing 'fake news' photo of Saskatoon refugee rally

A photo from a Saskatoon rally welcoming Syrian refugees is getting huge shares on social media, but for all the wrong reasons.

Reporter who took photo shared evidence of photo being altered

The identity of the woman in the photo is unknown. The photographer did not give permission for the photo to be copied and edited to change the sign the woman is wearing. (Lasia Kretzel/Twitter)

When Lasia Kretzel photographed a woman welcoming Syrian refugees to Saskatoon at a rally in late 2015, the words "fake news" had not yet become commonplace.

Now that photo, altered to completely change its intent, has become fake news after being circulated on Twitter by a British politician last week.

"It does suck to see your work … being warped and edited to somebody else's ideas of what they wanted to spread. Regardless of if I agreed with them or not, my photo had been changed," Kretzel told CBC News Monday.

Kretzel, who has since moved to Vancouver, took the photo while working as a reporter for Saskatoon radio station CKOM.

The unidentified woman in the photo wore an Amnesty International placard that read, "My door is open for refugees."

When that photo resurfaced in early 2017, it had been altered.

'My door is open for refugees' is a saying seen on placards at Saskatoon events even in the summer of 2018. (Amnesty International Saskatoon/Facebook)

"My legs are open for refugees," the photo now read. The editing job was "poor and hastily done," Kretzel would later note on Twitter.

Altered photo gains attention

The photo was largely used to promote anti-immigration propaganda, Kretzel said. She had initially dismissed the "chop job" edit, choosing not to set the facts straight with trolls online who were circulating the photo.

But she was given reason to speak up last week when the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party and current broadcaster Nigel Farage tweeted out the image to his 1.2 million Twitter followers.

"What an insult to the victims of sexual abuse in Cologne and rape in Malmo. These people are sick," Farage's now-deleted tweet read.

Before it was deleted, the image had been shared by many others, including actor James Woods.

Farage later issued a followup tweet:

"The photograph turns out to be Fake News, but the refugees welcome brigade need to think harder about what is happening."

Farage's deleted tweet has been upsetting for Kretzel.

"It really stung because it felt that this is somebody that has the power to affect opinions," she said.

She took to Twitter to give a point-by-point recounting of the facts, and said she wants people in positions of public influence like Farage to act more responsibly with what they share online.

She said she hopes her message on Twitter encourages people who saw Farage's original tweet to think more critically about what they share and see online.

"In an era where someone as myself as a legitimate journalist trying to get out proper information, in an era where constantly I'm being hurled insults of fake news, I really hope that the people using those insults or passing along fake information think twice next time," she said.

While she doesn't know the name of the woman in the photo, Kretzel said this is likely a situation where the woman would be better off not knowing how her likeness has been misused.

About the Author

Chelsea Laskowski

Chelsea Laskowski is a web writer with CBC Saskatoon.