Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab
No News of Tarique-Zubaida’s Arrest Found in Al Jazeera
This article is more than 10 months old

No News of Tarique-Zubaida's Arrest Found in Al Jazeera

Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab

Multiple Facebook pages (1, 2), groups, and personal profiles recently shared a screenshot on June 14, claiming that Tarique Rahman, the incumbent chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and his wife Zubaida Rahman were arrested in London for money laundering. The screenshot allegedly attributed the news to Al Jazeera, an international media outlet. However, Dismislab has verified that the screenshot is not authentic, and Al Jazeera has not published any news regarding this arrest.

Dismislab searched the Al Jazeera website extensively but found no matching news article to the screenshot’s headline or content. Using the search option on the news platform for “Tarique Rahman” a total of 31 news articles were found from 2007 to the present. However, none of these articles, including those published on or around June 14, mention the arrest of Tarique and Zubaida Rahman in London.

It is important to note that the last report from Al Jazeera regarding Tarique Rahman dates back to July 21, 2016, and it does not mention his arrest. Furthermore, Al Jazeera has not published any reports featuring the image used in the viral post.

To further confirm the accuracy of the viral claim, Dismislab conducted searches on popular search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yandex. None of these searches yielded any results, indicating that no major search engine has indexed a report of this magnitude.

Dismislab has also reached out to several individuals, including Al Jazeera’s Asia-Pacific editor, via email to gather more information. Once a response is received, it will be included in the report.

The distinct feature of this fabricated screenshot of Al Jazeera report is that its font, layout, and structure are identical to other news articles on Al Jazeera’s website. The text or description in the screenshot is not copied from any other source. Only the image has been taken from a different source, which has been published multiple times by various media outlets in Bangladesh. At first glance, the screenshot appears to be genuine.

However, a web developer visited Al Jazeera’s website and within just 10 minutes manipulated the source code to create this deceptive news report, including the journalist’s name and picture, as shown below.

Slide right and left to see the real and edited news article

Manipulating the source code allowed for the temporary preview of an altered version of the news article, while the original site’s content remained unchanged. It is suspected that the deceptive screenshot was captured from this temporary preview page, where the headline, image, text, and caption were all edited. A journalist then utilized an AI tool that incorporated various elements from the screenshot to generate a fabricated report with a misleading headline and text.

Media ethics and development expert Qurratul-Ain-Tahmina from Daily Prothom Alo advises caution when encountering such screenshots. She emphasizes the importance of verifying their authenticity before sharing with others, disregarding visual appearance alone. Verifying whether the screenshot corresponds to a legitimate news outlet is crucial. If not found, cross-checking with other media sources is recommended. Even if the authenticity is confirmed, it remains essential to review what other media outlets are reporting on the matter.

Fabricated news incidents have occurred in the past as well. For instance, a manipulated quote attributed to Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), circulated on Facebook. Additionally, false news stories were created by editing screenshots from The New York Times and BBC news reports. Such deceptive practices were previously exposed in an extensive report by Rumor Scanner.

Prior to the national election in 2018, incidents of creating fake news portals, similar to those of Prothom Alo and BBC Bangla, also took place. At that time, two individuals involved in the creation of such fabricated websites were arrested.

Similar incidents have been documented in the United States, including the dissemination of fabricated news articles opposing Hillary Clinton by a fake news publication called Denver Guardian prior to the 2016 Presidential election.