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Major India newspaper front page altered with bogus pre-election ‘survey’ result

In World
April 19, 2024

A manipulated picture that surfaced online days before India began its marathon election on April 19 falsely claimed a major newspaper published a “mega survey” that found an opposition alliance was set to win in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s party. The Dainik Bhaskar newspaper denied publishing such a survey, while analysts said victory was all but assured for Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The picture was shared on Facebook by a supporter of the opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) on April 15, 2024.

It appeared to show the front page of major Hindi-language newspaper Dainik Bhaskar reporting on the result of an election survey.

The purported survey claimed to show the BJP losing in Maharashtra and Bihar — states where it has a majority or plurality of seats in parliament — and leading in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Meanwhile, it appeared to predict the opposition maintaining its hold of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana in the south and West Bengal in India’s east.

“In Dainik Bhaskar’s mega survey, INDIA alliance is leading in 10 states and BJP is not able to open its tally in many states. This time BJP’s crushing defeat!” the Hindi-language post says.

<span>Screenshot of the false post taken on April 16, 2024</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Ajogm.Vjp5MGjpj_oKRa4Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTEyNDg-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/feb285158db226609f94395e9dd69ac5″><noscript><img alt=Screenshot of the false post taken on April 16, 2024” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/Ajogm.Vjp5MGjpj_oKRa4Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTEyNDg-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/feb285158db226609f94395e9dd69ac5″ class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot of the false post taken on April 16, 2024

India was set to elect the 543-member Lok Sabha — the lower house of the country’s legislature — in a six-week general election that started on April 19.

Analysts have long expected Modi’s BJP to win against a fractious alliance of more than two dozen parties who have yet to name a candidate for prime minister.

But Modi was hoping to increase his party’s parliamentary majority — wooing southern states where his Hindu nationalism holds little appeal.

The manipulated picture was shared in similar posts on Facebook here and here, and on social media site X.

Comments on the posts suggested some social media users believed the picture showed a genuine article from Dainik Bhaskar.

“Dainik Bhaskar report is quite positive for India block,” one wrote.

“I am agree (sic) with the survey,” another said.

Doctored picture

Dainik Bhaskar’s national editor LP Pant told AFP the picture circulating online was “edited”.

“No such survey has been published by Dainik Bhaskar,” Pant said.

Responding to a false post on X which shared the doctored picture, he posted that a “fake survey” had been created using the newspaper’s masthead (archived link).

AFP reviewed recent issues of Dainik Bhaskar on its online database and found the manipulated picture was taken from the Bhopal edition of the paper published on April 13, 2024.

Below is a screenshot of the picture in the false posts (left) and the genuine front page which AFP was able to view behind paywall (right), with the edited elements highlighted:

<span>Comparison of the screenshot of the cutting in false post (left) and the original front page cutting (right).</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/sKVKZU70rQDQwag.qoQgeg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTQ5Nw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/e93c742fa062564d06d8f623e54f8704″><noscript><img alt=Comparison of the screenshot of the cutting in false post (left) and the original front page cutting (right).” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/sKVKZU70rQDQwag.qoQgeg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTQ5Nw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/e93c742fa062564d06d8f623e54f8704″ class=”caas-img”>

Comparison of the screenshot of the cutting in false post (left) and the original front page cutting (right).

The original front page featured an advertisement for the BJP and a report about rain in Bhopal. These were replaced with the purported pre-election survey.

AFP has repeatedly debunked misinformation swirling around India’s election here, here and here.

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