Image of Julian Assange holding newspaper report of plans to Islamize Nigeria was photoshopped

Newspapers have been, until recently, one of the most powerful and trusted sources of information. But the internet has transformed the world of news and forced most papers to adopt an online presence.

The digital revolution has also exposed newspapers to image manipulators looking to sway public opinion by using their trusted names.

Kenya’s largest newspaper, the Daily Nation, has had its front pages manipulated to drive political points online.

It’s also happened in Nigeria. On 6 June 2019, a Facebook user posted an image showing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holding up a copy of the Guardian (the British newspaper, not the Nigerian one), with the front page headline: “massive plans to islamize nigeria uncovered”.

Below a photo of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, a subhead claims this “agenda” is his plan for the country.

Did the award-winning newspaper publish this story?

Headline on ‘true Afghan war’

The front page in the image features grammar errors – always a red flag signalling misinformation. Several words that should be capitalised are printed in small letters: “massive”, “islamize” and “nigeria”.

A reverse image search reveals that the newspaper’s headline has been altered. The headline in the original photo reads: “Massive leak of secret files exposes true Afghan war”. The story was published on the Guardian website on the night of 25 July 2010. 

Assange was photographed holding the print edition the next day, 26 June 2010, by AFP photographer Leon Neal. The photo can be seen on the stock photo site Getty Images.

The caption reads: “Australian founder of whistleblowing website, ‘WikiLeaks’, Julian Assange holds up a copy of today’s Guardian newspaper during a press conference in London on July 26, 2010.”

Both the print and online versions of the Guardian show a photo of a soldier sitting down, smoking a cigarette. Buhari’s image was photoshopped in its place.

The image shared on Facebook is a fake. – Dancan Bwire


For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

You’ve posted an image, a video, a statement or a link to an article on Facebook or Instagram. And a fact-checker has rated it “false”, “partly false” or “false headline”.

This could mean fewer people will see your page. What should you do? First, don't delete!

Click on our guide below for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check has partnered with Facebook to combat fake news and false information on the social platform. This fact-check is part of the initiative.

As part of its third-party fact-checking programme, Facebook allows its partners to see public articles, pictures or videos that have been flagged as potentially inaccurate.

Content rated as “false” by fact-checkers will be downgraded in news feeds. This means fewer people will see it.

You can help us identify fake news and false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

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