Manipulated images of smiling Khmer Rouge victims prompt Cambodia to threaten Vice media with legal action

Irish artist Matt Loughrey’s reworked pictures of people murdered in Cambodia’s Killing Fields, published by Vice, may have broken country’s Archives Act.

The Cambodian government has threatened legal action against the UK-based Vice media group after the culture publication ran an article containing manipulated portraits of the people killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge at Phnom Penh’s Security Prison 21.

The modified images, by the Irish photographic artist Matt Loughrey, were taken without permission from the archive of what is today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and ran on Vice’s website on 9 April.

As part of a wider project titled The Colourful Past, Loughrey restored and colourised the archival portraits of the prison’s victims in post-production. In some cases, he then edited the portraits to give the impression the inmates were smiling at the moment the photograph was taken. In one photo, Loughrey may have added a bloody handprint added to a wall behind the inmate, the Khmer Times newspaper reported.

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