Tamara Yesmin Toma

Researcher, Dismislab
Jute or Cannabis? Fact-Checking the Controversial Leaf in Ministry campaign
This article is more than 1 year old

Jute or Cannabis? Fact-Checking the Controversial Leaf in Ministry campaign

Tamara Yesmin Toma

Researcher, Dismislab

A photograph used in a promotion by the Government of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Textiles and Jute provoked great outrage on social media. On March 6, National Jute Day, an image was used to market jute products. Several individuals have wondered if the picture of the leaf used there is of the jute tree. Nevertheless, verification by Dismislab revealed that the image of the leaf used in the Ministry of Textiles and Jute promotion is not of a jute plant, but of cannabis. And the entire image was obtained from the internet.

On Monday, several media outlets (BDNews24, BanglaNews24, and Desh Rupantar) published news of the controversy over the unknown leaf used in the Jute Day campaign. It then swiftly circulated on social media.

Saikat Chandra Halder, public relations officer of the ministry, told BDNews24.com, I have spoken to some people involved, and they said that this image is of another, lesser-known species of jute.

However, refuting Saikat Halder’s statement, a scientist associated with the discovery of the jute gene arrangement, UGC Professor Dr. Hasina Khan told BDNews24, “The leaf used in the picture may be of ‘kenaf’. It also produces similar fibres. But kenaf is also not a jute leaf.”

After a reverse image search, the image used in the Ministry of Textiles and Jute campaign was found on image-video marketplaces like iStock, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock. On all three websites, the description of the image reads, “cannabis leaf hemp fabric texture”. The image is available on some other websites (1, 2, 3, 4) as well. Everywhere the topic of the photograph was the cloth or fabric made from hemp.

Hemp fabric is basically fabric made from the fibres of the Cannabis sativa plant. This species of plant is particularly known for producing the narcotic drug cannabis, or hashish. However, the type of cannabis sativa from which the fabric is produced is low in the addictive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). By 2028, the global market value of hemp fabric will reach $10.1 billion, according to a report by Research and Market.

Among the marketplaces, the image was first uploaded on June 2, 2019 on iStock. The name of Oleg Malyshev is mentioned as a contributor to the image.

Another photo marketplace, 123RF, also features a photo with the same title from a profile named Oleg Malyshev. Here Oleg’s profile description mentions his name as El Roi. Oleg Malyshev’s location is identified as Belarus. The image is also uploaded to Adobe Stock under the same title. The name of the contributor here is Elroi.

That means Oleg Malyshev or El Roy are both the same person. He is the one who uploaded the original image to all the marketplaces. According to the description given by the photographer, Oleg, the image is of hemp leaves used in the production of fabric or cloth. Nowhere is it said that the image is of any type of jute.

When Dismislab contacted Oleg Malyshev via email, he confirmed that the photograph was taken in 2018. For the picture shoot, he acquired genuine hemp apparel and socks online.Oleg often takes pictures of cannabis leaves, and his photos of cannabis leaves are used by various local and foreign media, even on Getty Images. one can find several more such examples in the image below.