Altered New York Times cover mocking Indian PM Modi circulates online ahead of polls

After India's Supreme Court ruled that the government's electoral bond scheme was "unconstitutional", online posts shared a purported New York Times cartoon mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the decision. AFP found the original newspaper cutting did not feature the cartoon, which was created as satire by a social media user.

"On electoral bonds, the international media The New York Times is telling that the king has become naked," read a Hindi-language caption of a post shared by a Facebook user.

The Indian government implemented its electoral bond scheme on January 2, 2018. Under the scheme, Indian citizens and corporate groups could donate unlimited amounts of money to any political party anonymously (archived link).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the largest beneficiary of the scheme, according to AFP (archived link).

However, in February 2024, India's Supreme Court declared the government's electoral bond scheme was "unconstitutional". 


The image was shared alongside a similar caption by social media users on Facebook here and here; and on X here.

Comments on the posts indicated some users were misled to believe the image showed a genuine New York Times front page.

One person wrote: "We boycott NEW YORK TIMES."

Another said: "The era of bold journalism ended in the 90s. Today media and journalists are being sold by the kilo."

However, the image of the New York Times front page has been manipulated to insert the cartoon.  

Altered front page

The image contains several indications that it was manipulated. 

The words "Satire Edition" can be seen at the top of the cutting, as highlighted in red by AFP below (left) alongside an image of the original New York Times edition published on March 15, 2024 (right):

A comparison of the manipulated front page (left) and the original New York Times cover (right)

In response to an enquiry from AFP, a spokesperson for the New York Times said: "The New York Times did not publish this article, image, or headline."

By searching for the username "@educatedbilla" mentioned in the false posts, AFP found the first version of the manipulated front page was posted on X on March 15 this year (archived link).

In response to an enquiry by AFP, the user said he created the image as a joke.

"This is satire and I created it with the help of the MS paintbrush tool," he said.

AFP found the cartoon on an open-source community website for artists credited to "Astaire" in February 2021 (archived link).

A screenshot of the original cartoon

Artist Fabio Astaire told AFP: "I created this picture a few years ago." 

AFP found the image posted on his Instagram account on Feb 9, 2021 (archived link).


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