A photograph of the doctors paying their last respect to the veteran political stalwart has been accessed by Zee News”, declared an article by Zee News following the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “All the doctors stood in queue and observed silence as they bowed their heads as a mark of respect to the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee“, said a DNA article, describing a picture which showed doctors standing in a row with bowed heads around a dead body on a hospital bed. Both Zee News and DNA also tweeted this “Photo of AIIMS doctors paying their last respects to Atal Bihari Vajpayee”.


A closer look at the photograph would suggest that it is not from India. It is a picture from 2012 of a group of Chinese doctors paying tribute to a woman whose organs were donated after her death. Medical workers bowed to 17-year-old Wu Huajing who donated her organs after her death in Guangdong on Nov 22, 2012.

Photo Courtesy: China Daily

Both, Zee News and DNA later realized their gaffe. The tweets have now been deleted and the articles have been revised. “Photo of AIIMS doctors paying their last respects to Atal Bihari Vajpayee circulating on social media; but the truth is something else” reads the revised headline of Zee News‘ story. The article reads like a fact-check and explains the truth behind the image. At the end of the article, Zee News clarifies that they too had inadvertently used the photo claiming it was of AIIMS doctors and they regret the error.

The revised article by DNA does not attempt to fact check the image nor does it acknowledge its error. Even though the headline still states “How AIIMS doctors paid tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee” the accompanying text makes no mention of the doctors or the photograph it had shared earlier.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death once again kick-started the now familiar media frenzy of circulating rumors and fake news without basic verification. We saw yesterday that in their eagerness to be the first to break news, many media outlets declared Vajpayee dead even before the official announcement by AIIMS. In emotionally charged situations, it is not unusual to witness an almost irresistible urge to circulate fake and/or misleading images on social media. However, mainstream media must verify before it carries these images and gives them a larger audience. Although Zee News later regretted the error, DNA has neither acknowledged nor corrected it. When media is caught in a situation where such an image had been inadvertently circulated, is it too much to expect something more than a quiet cover-up?