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Where LIES reign supreme

Photoshopped pictures, fake captions, doctored


contents swarm social media; culprits abuse it for
inciting fanaticism, running propaganda against war
crimes trial, and for character assassination
JULFIKAR ALI MANIK

Changing the Gilaf (cover) of Holy Kaaba is a


traditional ceremony in Makkah and, as in every
year, it was held with due religious solemnity in

October
last.
Many photos of this event are found across the
cyber world. A Bangla site posted one such picture,
but with the caption: The imam of the Holy Kaaba
here vouches for Sayedees good character.
Delawar Hossain Sayedee, nayeb-e-ameer of
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, has recently been
sentenced to death for involvement in genocide and
other crimes against humanity during the Liberation
War
in
1971.
In January, the same photo, showing eminent
personalities attending the Makkah ceremony,
popped up in a social network site. This time, there
was a news report that read: A human chain led by
the khatib of Holy Kaaba protests the war crimes
trial
in
Bangladesh.
The news item was posted in a Facebook page
purported to be of a Bangla daily. Similar stories
were found in three newspapers known to be
supporters or mouthpieces of the BNP, Jamaat and
other
Islamist
groups.
One of the dailies after publishing this news in its
print edition removed the item from its website
without
running
a
correction.
The website of another daily used the news item
only to remove it later with apology to its readers.
Another newspaper took no step after running it in
its
print
and
web
versions.

Any information that is not accurate definitely has a


negative impact on the mind of a person who is
receiving it, Professor Shamim F Karim, an expert
on human psychology, told The Daily Star.
When we get wrong information, we form our
beliefs and attitudes on the basis of the information
that
is
not
accurate.
After the February 15 murder of blogger Ahmed
Rajib Haidar, some quarters, especially radical
Islamists, through online propaganda tried not only
to justify the killing but also label the Shahbagh
movement
as
anti-Islamic.
It was reported in the media how a fake blog with
anti-Islam content was made to go viral in the name
of Rajib, also an architect and Shahbagh activist, to
malign
the
movement.
When some right-wing newspapers took up this line
of propaganda whipping up religious sentiments,
fanatics unleashed terror across the country.
Citing the Code of Conduct 1993 (2002 as
amended) for the newspapers and journalists,
Bangladesh Press Council Chairman Justice BK
Das said that unconfirmed reports or reports based
on rumours shall be verified before publication and
no report of an event can be distorted to influence
readers.
Any aggrieved person or group directly involved with
the news published in a newspaper can lodge a

complaint with the press council, he added.


Last year, as the government declined to accept
anymore Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, an
online campaign against Bangladesh began using
misleading captions and fake photos of atrocities on
Rohingyas.
Some local newspapers in Coxs Bazar ran some of
those photos, adding to tension and confusion
among
the
people
there.
The Facebook post that described the ceremony of
changing Gilaf-e-Kaaba as a demonstration against
war crimes trial had referred to a report published in
a
Bangla
daily
on
January
6.
On December 3 last year, another newspaper
published a picture of a rally in Turkey, saying over a
hundred thousand people in Kadikoy Square were
demanding the release of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders
behind
bars
on
war
crimes
charges.
An English version of the news and the picture have
also been found on a website called Bangladesh
Independent News Network (BDINN) with the same
date and credit lines and title Millions of people
gathered in Turkey, demanding release of Jamaat
leaders
of
Bangladesh.
However, at the bottom of the same picture, a
Turkish news website simply said: PROPHETS OF
LOVE
rallies.
Under these circumstances, said Prof Shamim,

also a senior teacher at the educational and


counselling psychology department of Dhaka
University, my whole cognition about my world is
based on wrong or inaccurate information.
The brain requires a lot of processing when it
receives any information, she said, adding that the
brain stores information even if it is wrong and when
the same brain gets the right information on the
same issue it commands you to sort it out.
A Bangla blog released a picture and news on
December 15 last year with the dateline, Tehran,
Friday 14 December 2012. The picture was of a
march of veiled women and it was captioned, Over
a hundred thousand women rally in Tehran
demanding
release
of
Sayedee.
But the same picture was found on the website of
the Australian newspaper Daily Life with the caption:
Muslim women march down Macquarie Street,
Sydney, in the annual Ashura procession to promote
unity and spread the message of peace and
harmony.
17th
December
2010.
Pinaki Bhattacharya, a blogger and online activist,
told The Daily Star, This is a crime; presenting
distorted and misinformation is a crime.
However, this was nothing new in the global political
field or in Bangladesh, Pinaki said. Pasting the
photograph of a person on a passport by removing
the original photo was very common in Bangladesh

in
the
recent
past.
Fabrication became easy with the social media
boom,
he
added.
Social media and networking sites have tremendous
positive impacts. They have created an opportunity
for each and every person in the world to exercise
his/her
freedom
of
expression.
But the tragic attacks on the Buddhist community in
Ramu and some other places of Coxs Bazar can be
a unique example of how abuse of this opportunity
can wreak havoc on a country or society.
A group of Islamist fanatics destroyed more than a
dozen Buddhist monasteries in Ramu in September
last year through using an anti-Islam photo on a fake
Facebook account of
a Buddhist
youth.
The attackers in a planned way spread the picture of
desecrating the Quran through mobile phones of
many locals in Ramu through Bluetooth or picture
message
service.
The same technique was applied at Teknaf in Coxs
Bazar in the middle of last year on the Rohingya
issue.
In June last year, many locals of Teknaf were
frequently receiving pictures on their mobile phones
via Bluetooth or as picture messages of the
persecution of Rohingyas in neighbouring Rakhine
state
of
Myanmar.
Those pictures were about horrific atrocities on

Rohingyas that made people in Teknaf panicky.


Simultaneously, attempts by some hundred
Rohingyas fleeing repression by the majority
Buddhist population in Myanmar to enter
Bangladesh left the people of Teknaf scared.
Undoubtedly, there is a record of the persecution of
Rohingyas, but the spread of those pictures in the
middle of last year was nothing but a tool of
propaganda to create sympathy and support for
Rohingyas among the bordering neighbourhood in
Teknaf.
The Daily Star investigation revealed that those
photos were misleading. Anyone can find the original
source of an image posted online by searching
similar images using tools or apps like Gophoto.it.
A Facebook account named Save Rohingya
Muslims of Myanmar (Burma) shared a photo from
another
account
called Cyber
group
of
Bangladesh.
It was a photo of a mass grave and a line above
read: Stop killing Muslims in Burma.Please Share
with
Friends.
Originally, it was news agency AFPs photo with the
caption, A picture released by the Local
Coordination Committees in Syria purportedly shows
people standing around a mass grave in the town of
Taftnaz
on
Thursday.
This original picture and caption are available on the

site of The National, an English-language daily


newspaper published in Abu Dhabi in April last year.
The same Facebook account on July 17, 2012,
released another picture with the caption: Continuity
of Massacre of Muslims of Burma by Buddhists,
More
than
1000
Killed
yesterday.
It was actually a picture of a 2004 incident in
Thailand. Foreign news agencies released the photo
with the caption: Thai soldiers apprehend hundreds
of men after demonstrators clashed with police
outside the Tak Bai police station in Thailands
Narathiwat Province, nearly 1150 km (715 miles)
south
of
Bangkok,
October
25,
2004.
Pictures with misleading captions like Terrorists of
Buddhism of Burma Kill 500 Muslims at the Beach of
Bay of Bengal today, Massacre is continuously
going on, Massacre of Muslims in Burma,
Muslims slaughtered by Buddhists in Burma have
been
found
on
different
sites.
Some sites claimed 40 thousand people had been
killed.
In April 2010, there was a picture of Tibetan monks
preparing for the mass cremation of earthquake
victims on a mountaintop in Yushu county, Qinghai
province, in China. That picture, too, was widely
used in social media with the caption, The killing of
Muslims
in
Burma.
A striking photo of a Tibetan who set himself on fire

outside the Indian parliament to protest the visit by


Chinese president Hu Jintao in March last year has
also been spread with a false caption: A Muslim
was burned in Burma and journalists are taking
pictures
instead
of
saving
him.
An image from Theo van Goghs television
documentary Submission was widely used in
mainstream international media while a review of
this
film
was
published.
The image was of an actress with a passage from
the Quran tattooed on her back. It was widely used
in social media as an instance of the persecution of
Muslims
in
Burma.
A photo has been posted on a Facebook page
showing an elderly Muslim riding a motorbike in
Lahore with a Bangla placard that said, Demanding
Allama Sayedees release. In the original picture,
the placard was in Urdu on a totally different issue,
that of describing Muslims who observe New Year
as people who have strayed from the path of Islam.
A picture of a grand rally led by Shahbagh youths
was posted on social media with the Urdu caption,
A rally to protest against the sentences passed on
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh leaders is in progress
in Dhaka, while the gathering pressed for a ban on
Jamaat politics and maximum punishment to war
criminals.
When someone posts a fabricated picture,

thousands of people share and watch it within


minutes. Sometimes many viewers drop their
comments supporting or denouncing the false claim.
I dont know the solution to this problem, I just dont
want to be exposed to any wrong information, Prof
Shamim
said.
But there must be some technological way of
stopping the supply of information which is not
accurate, she said, citing the example of the filtering
system of inbox mails and spam mails in email
accounts.
Experts may find a way of filtering or differentiating
right from wrong information when someone abuses
it in the social media by copying from its original
sources.
Still, Pinaki Bhattacharya said, the use of social
media should not be restricted by the law.
So,
whats
the
way
out?
Social media is an open field, the blogger said. It
is necessary for social media users to keep an open
mind and have the mentality to challenge any post
and check facts before sharing it.