Skip to navigationSkip to content

Newspapers have a strong future proving world leaders are still alive

AP Photo / Alex Castro, Cubadebate
Castro reading Friday’s paper
  • Zachary M. Seward
By Zachary M. Seward

Editor-in-chief of Quartz

CubaPublished This article is more than 2 years old.

Fidel Castro beat back rumors of his demise today with a bylined piece on a state-run news site that included photographs of the former Cuban president reading Friday’s newspaper.

That appears to be the ailing Castro’s preferred method of proving he’s still alive. After undergoing surgery last year, he released this photo of him reading the same state newspaper, Granma, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

AP Photo / Cubadebate, Estudios Revolucion
Chavez and Chavez

And here is Castro in 2006 pulling the same move in a not-terribly-convincing photo that raised accusations of Photoshopping:

AP Photo / HO
Castro on the couch

Similar doubt was cast on an image in 2009 of Tamil Tigers leader Velupillaï Prabhakaran purporting to watch news coverage of his death. He was, it turned out, actually dead.

Faked image of Velupillai Prabhakaran

Brandishing a recent newspaper to prove you’re alive is a common trope of fictional (and sometimes real-life) kidnappers. World leaders are less likely to use the trick, but it has even been wielded to prove the longevity of Humphrey, the former house cat at the UK prime minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street.

After the Blair administration banished Humphrey to suburban London, a Conservative MP accused the Blairs of killing the cat. To counter those accusations, the Blairs actually invited journalists to photograph Humphrey, who would live another nine years, posing with copies of that day’s papers:

AP Photo / Sean Dempsey
Humphrey, alive and well

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.