“This picture will break the hearts of the Bravehearts Tamilians who made the most protected guy in India too scared to drive. He had 2 fly on a chopper, break the wall of Madras IIT when TN trended #gobackmodi. Then this happened. Tamilians & South Indians will be shocked #TNGovt” tweeted an account named Suby (@Subytweets) on July 26, 2018 with a photograph of Tamil Nadu Dy CM O. Panneerselvam bowing before PM Narendra Modi. The tweet also refers to the protests that took place in Tamil Nadu over PM Modi’s visit in April, 2018.

Not a recent image

Moreover, Alt News found many articles in Tamil published with the same image. One of the earliest articles published by Vikatan on September 9, 2017, carried the same photo. The article is titled, “அ.தி.மு.க-வை இயக்குகிறதா பி.ஜே.பி ? உண்மை உணர்த்தும் 18 ‘பரபர’ சம்பவங்கள்! #Vikatan Exclusive” (Does the BJP operate the AIADMK? 18 “Widespread” Incidents #Vikatan Exclusive -Google translated) wherein the image was posted below a subhead, “சம்பவம் 11: பன்னீர் – பிரதமர் சந்திப்புகள்!” (Event 11: Paneer – Prime Minister’s Meetings -Google translated). It may be noted that the veracity of the article has not been questioned.

What is the truth?

Alt News did a Google reverse image search and found an article published by NDTV on February 18, 2018, titled, ” ‘I’m Minister Because Of PM Modi’s Advice,’ Says O Panneerselvam.” The article contained a photograph with the same background, showing PM Modi and Panneerselvam seated across each other. It was taken by the Press Information Bureau(PIB), a nodal agency of the Government of India when the two met in December 2016.

Searching on Twitter with the keyword, “O. Panneerselvam” with a syntax, “from:@PIB_India” threw up a couple of tweets out of which one tweet had three photographs of the same event. However, none of them matched with the controversial image that has been circulated.

Alert! It’s a Photoshop

Googling the keywords, “O.Panneerselvam bow” shows images of O. Panneerselvam greeting Former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa. According to the Press Trust of India‘s photo archive, it was captioned, “Former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam bows in front of AIADMK Leader J Jayalalithaa after she took an oath as new chief minister of Tamil Nadu in Chennai on Saturday.” Alt News found that the image of Panneerselvam seen kowtowing to PM Modi dates back to 2016 and has been lifted from the photograph posted below.

Photoshopped images have become an easy tool for political propaganda. It does not take much time or effort to crop two unrelated images and put them together to churn a false narrative. Social media users are advised to be circumspect with regard to controversial content and are encouraged to use tools like reverse image search in order to find out the truth.

About the Author

Jignesh is a writer and researcher at Alt News. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Gujarat University.