Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (C) and Punjab's chief minister Bhagwant Mann (L) gesture to supporters atop a vehicle during a roadshow in Ahmedabad on April 2, 2022. ( AFP / SAM PANTHAKY)

Fake New York Times report about 'record-breaking rally' in India's Gujarat misleads online

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook and Twitter posts shared hundreds of times in India have criticised the New York Times for purportedly publishing a report that says a record 250 million people attended a rally for the political opposition Aam Aadmi Party in the western state of Gujarat in April. However, the screenshot featured in the posts shows a fabricated New York Times report. A representative for Aam Aadmi Party told AFP its Gujarat rally was attended by "around 35,000 to 40,000 people" -- not 250 million as the posts claim.

The screenshot was posted here on April 3, 2022 on Twitter. It has since been retweeted more than 1,800 times.

A screenshot of the false post taken on April 13, 2022

The screenshot appears to show a New York Times article with a headline that reads: "Aam Aadmi Party sets world record of gathering highest number of people in a political rally".

Above a photo of a street crowded with people waving Indian flags is a subheading that reads: "Nearly 25 crore people attended Arvind Kejriwal's rally in Gujarat after his Landslide win in Punjab Elections."

The caption to the screenshot appears to criticise the New York Times by stating Gujarat only has a population of 6.2 crores.

"Crore" is a unit of measurement frequently used in India that means 10 million.

The screenshot circulated after the Aam Aadmi Party -- which forms a political opposition to India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party -- registered a landslide win in state elections in Punjab in April.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal started campaigning in Gujarat the same month for the state's upcoming elections in November.

Similar posts featuring the identical screenshot were also published on Facebook here, here and here.

But the screenshot shows a fabricated New York Times report.

AFP found no record that the newspaper had published the alleged report online as of April 26.

A comparison of the purported report with a genuine New York Times article on Indian politics shows that the newspaper uses different fonts, and does not include a dateline or subscription information above the headline.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the fabricated report (left) and a genuine New York Times report (right):

A comparison of the mocked up article (left) and a genuine article from the New York Times (right).

Responding to the false posts, the newspaper's communications team tweeted on April 3: "The screenshot in that tweet is a mocked up image. The New York Times did not write or publish that story."

The newspaper issued the tweet after India-based Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub had drawn attention to the screenshot.

Ayyub tweeted: "This photo shopped image is being circulated as a @nytimesworld story by the right wing in India. NYT or any other international publication will never use the term 'crore'."

Gujarat rally

The photo used in the purported screenshot was tweeted by Aam Aadmi Party's leader Bhagwant Mann with several other images on April 2 after a rally in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat state.

A representative for the party told AFP the rally was not attended by 250 million people as the false posts claim.

"According to our estimates, around 35,000 to 40,000 people gathered for the rally," Aam Aadmi Party Gujarat's media convener Yogesh Jadvani told AFP.

AFP has debunked other misinformation that has circulated following the state elections in India here and here.