This post has been updated.
On the evening of Dec. 3, Narendra Modi made a trip to Tamil Nadu, the southern Indian state reeling under severe floods, where over 280 people have died in recent weeks.
The Indian prime minister went on an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas, and the Press Information Bureau—the Indian government’s main media agency—published a photoshopped photograph of Modi looking through the round window of his helicopter.
Shortly after, the faux pas was discovered—and widely ridiculed on Twitter. Swiftly, the state-run bureau deleted the tweet, and so far, it has refused to comment on the incident.
Of course, this entire failed episode is unlikely to go down well with Modi, widely known for his social media clout.
Even Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency, called out the Press Information Bureau’s ineptness, describing the manipulated photograph “a far image crudely pasted onto the plane’s window.”
The observation is tinged with irony because Chinese official media—including Xinhua—have a reputation for circulating doctored images. In 2012, for instance, Xinhua apparently faked an image of Chinese premiere Li Keqiang. With this latest shenanigan, India’s Press Information Bureau risks joining the same league of extraordinary photo manipulators.
Update: The Press Information Bureau has finally put out a terse statement explaining the “merger of two pictures”:
Clarification regarding merger of two pictures on PIB’s Twitter Handle and Website
Pictures of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi undertaking the aerial survey of flood affected areas of Tamil Nadu were released on PIB Twitter Handle and PIB’s website last evening.
Out of the seven pictures released, one picture used the technique of merging two pictures. This is being referred to as “Photoshopping” in sections of media. This happened due to error of judgement and the picture was subsequently deleted. PIB regrets the release of the above mentioned picture. Inconvenience caused is regretted.