Sri Lankan posts share false 'alcohol prices being reduced' claim with mocked-up news graphic

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After Sri Lanka's currency appreciated against the US dollar in early March 2023, multiple Facebook posts shared what appeared to be a news graphic with a false claim that alcohol prices in the island nation had been "reduced". But news website Ada Derana, whose logo appears on the purported news graphic, said they did not publish the "photoshopped" news item. The country's excise department told AFP there had been no decision to reduce the duty on alcohol, and local distilleries said they had not cut their prices.

"Alcohol prices reduced today", reads Sinhala-language text on a purported news graphic shared on Facebook here on March 10, 2023.

The graphic shows a blurry image of what appear to be shelves of liquor. A logo for the Sri Lankan news website Ada Derana is visible in its bottom-right corner.

It circulated after local media reported that the value of the Sri Lanka rupee strengthened against the US dollar in early March.

According to Bloomberg, the rupee strengthened to 321 per dollar on March 7, its highest since April when the island nation declared bankruptcy.

It was shared by a user whose account name and profile picture suggests they are a supporter of the opposition National People's Power (NPP) party.

The user has captioned the post, "I still will not give you lot my vote".

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on March 20, 2023

The same purported news graphic was also shared on Facebook here, here and here.

Comments left by some users indicated they believed the claim.

One wrote: "Priorities of Sri Lankans -- the dollar drops and the first thing is not to provide relief by making everyday items more affordable but to reduce alcohol prices."

"Well at least now we can drown our worries with alcohol," wrote another.

The claim, however, is false.

A. Poornima, the editor of Ada Derana's Sinhala-language news website, told AFP on March 17: "We did not publish this news item. This is definitely photoshopped."

The graphic is similar to genuine news graphics posted by Ada Derana on social media, but the mocked-up graphic uses a different style of font and does not have a border around its featured image.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the mocked-up graphic (left) and a genuine news graphic produced by Ada Derana (right):

Screenshot comparison between the mocked-up graphic (left) and a genuine news graphic produced by Ada Derana (right)

A search for a similar graphic or news item about alcohol prices being reduced on Ada Derana's social media pages returned no results, as of March 24.

The Excise Department of Sri Lanka told AFP on March 17 the claim about alcohol prices being cut was not true.

Kapila Kumarasinghe, a spokesperson for the department, said: "No such decision has been taken so far to reduce the price of alcohol or cigarettes."

Spokespersons for the country's biggest alcohol manufacturers Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and Rockland Distilleries separately told AFP on March 23 that they also had not made any decision to reduce the prices of their products.