A man reads a newspaper with a headline on Sri Lanka's parliamentary polls 71% turnout, in Colombo on August 6, 2020. (AFP / Lakruwan Wanniarachchi)

Doctored image of Sri Lankan newspaper shares false quote from Buddhist monk about export of meat

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A purported screenshot of a Sinhala-language newspaper article has been shared hundreds of times in multiple Facebook posts which claim it includes a quote from a Buddhist monk stating he is proud that Sri Lanka is exporting meat products. The posts circulated online shortly after the opening of a meat processing factory in the country. The claim is false; AFP could not locate the purported article in the newspaper’s archives, and a spokesperson for the newspaper said the purported article was doctored.

This post was published on Facebook on December 14, 2020. It has been shared more than 700 times. 

It features an image of Buddhist monk Medille Pagngnaloka thera, a representative of a Sinhala nationalist organisation named Sinhale. 

The post purports to show a Sinhala-language news article. The headline translates to English as: “The President has not worked outside of the people's mandate

"We have to be proud of the fact that we are exporting meat without consuming it in this Buddhism empire led by the principle of non-violence”.

The Sinhala-language text superimposed on the image reads:  “Take a look at this monk preaching”.

Screenshot of the Facebook post published on December 14, 2020, captured on December 16, 2020

The post circulated online shortly after the opening of a meat processing plant -- said to be one of South Asia’s largest -- in the outskirts of Colombo on December 12, 2020 as reported by local newspaper Daily Mirror.

Critics mocked the plant's opening, pointing out that the government had laid out plans to ban cattle slaughter countrywide a few months ago. Here is an AFP report on the issue.

The image was shared alongside a similar claim in multiple Facebook posts here, here and here

The claim is false; the image of the newspaper article has been doctored. 

The purported newspaper screenshot shows a byline for Anura Balasuriya, who is a senior reporter at the Sinhala language daily Divaina

In response to the misleading posts, a newspaper spokesperson told AFP that no such article quoting Medille Pagngnaloka thera had appeared in the paper that week. 

“Although the layout appears to be similar, a closer look at it will indicate that the header font is different to that of the Divaina layout,” the spokesperson told AFP by phone on December 16, 2020.

AFP searched the archives of the Divaina newspaper edition from December 12 to December 14 and found no such article quoting the monk was published. 

The body of the article has been completely blurred out, indicating only the header has been doctored to add the false quote attributed to the monk.