US media group Vice withdrew an article that featured newly-colourised photographs of victims of the Khmer Rouge after Cambodia condemned the images saying its an insult to the dead because some had been altered to add smiles.
In the article artist Matt Loughrey colourised images from Tuol Sleng, the former school turned into the torture centre known as S-21, aimed to humanise the 14,000 Cambodians tortured and executed by the group. Only seven of those taken to Tuol Sleng survived.
The Vice caused a backlash on social media after comparisons with the original black-and-white photos showed that some subjects had smiles added in Loughrey’s colour images.
“To play around by using technology to put make-up on the victims of S21 … is a very grave insult to the souls of the victims of #genocide,” exiled Cambodian politician Mu Sochua wrote on Twitter.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture issued a statement calling on Loughrey and Vice to remove the images.
“We urge researchers, artists and the public not to manipulate any historical source to respect the victims,” the ministry said.