Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer speaks at a press conference on March 6, 2020 in California ( AFP / Robyn Beck)

Doctored images of health officials circulate online

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A compilation of images of health officials from around the world is circulating on social media in posts that attempt to discredit people who have been the public face of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the images of officials from Canada and the US city of Los Angeles have been doctored.

"When it comes to health ministers offering advise I personally tend to think they should be at least healthy or even human looking," says a September 14, 2021 Instagram post.

Screenshot taken on September 20, 2021 of an Instagram post

On Twitter, the same compilation of photos circulated under the text: "The Vaccine Sales Rep of the Year Competition is really heating up."

But two of the photos have been doctored. Below, AFP Fact Check examines the images.

Dr Theresa Tam

In addition to the compilation photos, some posts only feature the image of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam, including here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

Screenshot taken on September 20, 2021 shows a Facebook featuring a manipulated image of Dr Theresa Tam

A Google search for images of Tam led to this Toronto Star article from April 2020. The photo is credited to the Canadian Press.

Screenshot taken on September 21, 2021 of a Toronto Star article

Tam faced a public backlash over her comments on Covid-19, despite her mandate to advise the public and the government during the pandemic. The image in the posts appears substantially different in color from the original, with some facial features also being altered.

Dr Barbara Ferrer

A reverse image search in Google revealed that the photo of Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, had already circulated on Twitter in 2020 and was flagged as manipulated media by the platform.

Screenshot taken on September 21, 2021 of a manipulated image of Dr Barbara Ferrer

The image is a screenshot from a coronavirus briefing Ferrer gave on May 13, 2020. Footage of the press conference is available here.

Screenshot taken on September 21, 2021 of a coronavirus briefing given by Dr Barbara Ferrer

The image of Ferrer, who said she received death threats over the measures she imposed to help stop the spread of Covid-19, was doctored to lighten her skin and darken her eyes.

Lead Stories also fact-checked these images.

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