State-run newspapers have misled millions of readers by cropping a photo of a motorcycle smashed during the December 25 Air Bagan crash and printing it beside a story about a mine blast in Kachin State.
The photo was published in the January 28 edition of the New Light of Myanmar in both English and Myanmar languages, with the caption: “An innocent people dies in mine blast by KIA (Kachin) group near Zanan village on Myitkyina-Putao Road.”
The single-paragraph story beside the photograph was headlined, “KIA mine blast kills one,” and reported that three motorcyclists had triggered a mine while riding from Myitkyina to Putao about 10:30am on January 27.
The photo had been heavily cropped to remove the crowd of onlookers around the motorbike. The original photo was taken by the Myanmar Police Force shortly after the December 25 crash near Heho Airport. The motorbike pictured was ridden by U Pyar, who died after being hit by the aircraft.
The revelation is likely to fuel accusations that state media has been used to disseminate government propaganda about the conflict. State newspapers have regularly featured stories about KIA attacks on civilians and the Tatmadaw, but refrained from covering the impact of Tatmadaw offensives.
The photo was published the same day as the Ministry of Defence issued a press release accusing “some internal and external organisations, embassies and media” of issuing “fabricated news as to armed conflicts in Kachin State”.
“Although the official media stated the atrocities of KIA … those organisations turned a blind eye to the actual events and issued fabricated news. Such biased news could cause misunderstanding in the public and international community,” the press statement said.