A Facebook page that goes by the name योगी आदित्यनाथ की सेना (Yogi Adityanath ki Sena) posted an image which looked like a cropped article from a Hindi e-paper clip. The article’s title was a quote ascribed to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal –“India should concede its right on Kashmir as Kashmiris want independence.” The post was shared nearly 5,000 times.

सड़जी आये अपनी औकात पर .

Posted by योगी आदित्यनाथ की सेना on Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A Twitter user @RaviNEGI4BJP who identifies himself as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and is followed by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s Office had shared the same newspaper clip in June 2018. He wrote an accompanying caption that said – “If it were to be left to Kejri Ali, even Delhi would be sold.”

Another Twitter handle followed by Piyush Goyal’s Office shared the newspaper clip in June 2018. A few other individual users and Facebook pages/groups circulated the same earlier this year.

Fake e-paper clip circulating since 2014

There are certain observational hints that call the bluff of the fake e-paper clip. First, it does not include a date and second, has some serious grammatical flaws. In the first paragraph, the article addresses CM Kejriwal as “केजरी (Kejri)” which is uncharacteristic of a mainstream newspaper. In the subsequent paragraph, a statement by Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif is not written in the form of a direct quote. As one reads further, similar slights can be identified. However, the most significant indicator of the falseness of the clip is the fact that it says nothing about Kejriwal’s quote; it is only mentioned in the title.

Alt News found the possible origin of the fake clip. In 2014, Rishi Bagree had posted the same clip with a changed title and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s photograph instead of Kejriwal.

Observing the clips juxtaposed together, the similarity is evident. Not only are the articles exactly the same (with just the title changed), but the report on the right  – “पाकिस्तान में जलाए गए भारतीय ध्यज (Indian flags burned in Pakistan)” – is identical as well.

Since there are two versions of the same e-paper clip circulated at different points in time, there could be two possibilities – either the clip is completely manufactured or the original e-paper clip has been morphed more than once. To establish if a similar report exits and might have been photoshopped, Alt News searched for the article on Google using keywords from the report and found a February 5, 2014 article by Dainik Jagran. The earliest instance of the e-paper clip that we found on social media was posted by Rishi Bagree on February 7, 2014.

If one goes through the Jagran report, it is evident that its online e-paper version has been morphed. The article reads exactly the same, apart from its altered title and the word “भारत (Bharat)” replaced with “केजरी (Kejri)” in the body of the report. When this article is juxtaposed with the one viral on social media, the modifications are clearly visible.

It was, therefore, evident that the e-paper clip was fake and used to propagate misinformation. In 2016, websites like mobilenews24.com had written articles on the fake clip but later deleted them.

A Twitter user followed by Piyush Goyal’s Office and fake news website Postcard News had also shared the news clip last year.

An identical past

This wasn’t an isolated incident of a morphed e-paper clip being circulated on social media to spread disinformation. In July 2017, BJP MP Pratap Sinha had tweeted a Times of India story with a distorted headline. Earlier in June, a fake quote was ascribed to former President Pranab Mukherjee using a manufactured newspaper clip. That same month, another fake e-paper clip was circulated in the name of former HU student Rohith Vemula.

As consumers of daily news on the internet, we are attuned to believe e-paper clips because they carry within them an inherent genuineness. However, with instances of manufactured or morphed news clips emerging on social media, a self-fact-check is important. To establish the authenticity of such clips, any sentence picked from an article on the paper can be searched on Google. Most media outlets with e-papers have online versions of their reports and these would show up if the news is genuine.

As misinformation is easy to spread, a quick fact-check prevents further circulation of fake news.

[This article has been updated to include Rishi Bagree’s (@rishibagree) tweet, which we found was the earliest instance of the fake e-paper clip shared on social media.]

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