Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab
One photo, two claims, all wrong
This article is more than 1 year old

One photo, two claims, all wrong

Minhaj Aman

Research-Lead, Dismislab

Recently, a photograph of a rally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) went viral on social media with two contradictory claims. One claim was that the photo was from the BNP meeting held in Chattogram on October 12. The other claim was that the photograph had been doctored to show a ‘huge turnout’.

The flurry of claims and counterclaims from a number of individuals, groups and pages meant that the photo was shared hundreds of times. However, Dismislab found that neither of the two claims is true.

Several BNP activists shared the photograph, sometimes the single photo and sometimes with other photos on October 12 (the day of the Chattogram rally) and since.

For instance, on October 13, the photo was posted from the profile of one Liton Ahmed along with other pictures of the rally, which was in turn shared more than a hundred times.

Similarly, another party activist posted the picture in a group urging people to join the Khulna rally and turn it a grand one like the rally of Chattogram. Some posts also featured a promotional video with BNP media cell logo, which was actually an animation of the image in question.

This graphical post of the BNP media cell led to a counter post on a Facebook group of ‘Supporters of Bangladesh Awami League’ on October 13, the day after the rally. 

This same graphic was shared with the caption, “BNP finally resorts to Photoshop to ‘show’ fake crowds since the Chattogram rally was a super flop. Two stages at a single rally! Only the BNP rumour cell is capable of spinning such a tale.”
This video, with over 234,000 views, has supposedly been doctored to show two stages at the same rally. The same video clip has been posted and shared from at least 50 pages, groups and verified profiles. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Two issues were considered when factchecking this image. First, whether the photo is indeed from BNP’s October 12 rally, and second, whether the image was doctored to show two platforms.

To begin with, a simple reverse image search found a link to an old blog post which had a clearer and sharper image. The blog is accredited to Chattogram Doublemooring Thana BNP, a local unit of the party. However, there is no mention when the photo was uploaded.

Subsequently, an inspection of the site’s source code and further examination with two other tools showed that the blog site had not been modified since September 14, 2013. Meaning that all content on the site was uploaded before September 14, 2013.

So basically that means the picture was taken long before the BNP rally on October 12 2022.

Another reverse image search with the clearer image from the blog led to a link on news.priyo.com. Although that news item was not available on this site anymore, the broken link showed a date — January 10, 2012.
Now, with a new search of all the keywords narrowed down to the dates between 8 and 10 January 2012 resulted in a news item on bdnews24.com. That piece has the picture in question. It was published on January 9, 2012 and its headline read, “Khaleda on stage at a rally”.

The photo on bdnews24.com is also rather small, and does not have a photo credit or a date. However, this confirms that the photo is actually taken 10 years ago at a rally in Chattogram.

But, was the photo doctored to show two stages?
Another search of all keywords derived from the information so far available led to an English language website, which had the photo along with date and location. This site belongs to noted photographer Monirul Alam, and in fact bears his name too. The site also indicates that he has copyright of the photo. This photo that Monirul Alam had taken 10 years ago is the same photo as the one that went viral recently and shows two structures resembling stages.

Monirul Alam is currently working at the European Press Photo Agency. Contacted, first by messenger and later by phone, he confirmed that the photo of the public meeting was indeed taken by him and that he had gone to Chattogram to photograph the rally for Daily Prothom Alo newspaper, where he worked at the time. “I remember having to climb up to the roof of a tall building and there were a lot of other photographers too,” he said.
In other words, this photo of the BNP rally at Chattogram’s polo ground is from 2012, not 2022. The campaign video with the BNP media cell logo used old photos shared by party workers. It was also confirmed that the photo was not doctored to show two stages. Both the claims surrounding the photo were false.