A commuter wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, travels in a train in Colombo on July 16, 2020. (AFP / Ishara S. Kodikara)

Old images of Sri Lankan train toilet recirculated online with misleading claim

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved.

Two images of a dirty toilet have been shared thousands of times in multiple posts on Facebook alongside a claim they show a toilet on a Sri Lankan train in July 2020. The images, however, have been shared in a misleading context; the Facebook user who first uploaded the photos said he took them in 2018; Sri Lankan railway officials said its train toilets have since been updated.

The images were published here on Facebook on July 24, 2020. The post has been shared more than 4,200 times.

It shows a screenshot of a Facebook post that features two photos of a dirty toilet, geotagged to Kandy railway station. The dateline reads “yesterday”. The post states: “A toilet room on the Intercity express of Sri Lankan railways”. 

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

The post’s Sinhala-language caption translates to English as: “This is how a foreigner promoted the Colombo-Kandy Intercity express train, internationally.” 

The same screenshot was also shared here, here, here and here on Facebook, alongside a similar claim.

The images, however, have been shared in a misleading context.

The Facebook user named in the screenshots in the misleading posts published this statement refuting the claims on July 24, 2020, saying the photos were published online and subsequently deleted “two - three years ago”.

Screenshot of the Facebook post published n July 24, 2020 clarifying the context of the image that appeared in the misleading post.

It reads, in part: “My past timeline (uploaded two - three years ago) about toilet in the train is getting hot in SL today. About the timeline someone uploaded yesterday was copy, muster has been erased two - three years ago and I already apologized at that time.”

In response to the posts, M J D Fernando, the general manager of Sri Lanka Railways, told AFP the image has circulated online “a few years back” and does not reflect the current state of the toilets. 

During a phone conversation on July 31, 2020, he said: “As soon as this claim was brought to my attention, we checked the sanitation facilities of not just the train in question - but all intercity and confirmed that the sanitation facilities were not in such a poor condition. 

“We also checked the passengers details on the date for the train in question and confirmed no foreigners travelled in the train on the date mentioned in the social media posts circulating the misleading claim.”

In response to the misleading posts, Sri Lanka Railways’ administration officer for Galle district Wiraj Nanayakkara published this Facebook post on July 24, 2020. It states the photos are old and the train toilets have since been updated.