Amit Shah’s defence of Modi’s Somalia-Kerala remark ends up embarrassing Outlook magazine
Amit Shah’s defence of Modi’s Somalia-Kerala remark ends up embarrassing Outlook magazine

Amit Shah’s defence of Modi’s Somalia-Kerala remark ends up embarrassing Outlook magazine

The image is from Sri Lanka's No Fire Zone, taken in 2009

The image of a malnourished baby on the cover of Outlook magazine waved around by BJP’s national president Amit Shah has probably ended up embarrassing the magazine. The image, it appears, is not actually from Kerala, but is that of an infant from one of northern Sri Lanka’s conflict-hit areas. Outlook has denied this.

On May 14, a Dubai-based news website reported that the Shah had dragged Sri Lanka into the controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on the condition of tribals in Kerala.

In a reported titled “Now Amit Shah Drags In Sri Lanka To Defend PM’s Somalia Charge”, the website pointed out that the image used on the cover of Outlook magazine was actually taken in 2013 in Vanni, Sri Lanka.

On Saturday, Shah had held a media conference defending Modi’s remarks. One of the arguments he used was a report in Outlook magazine. The cover of the July 2013 issue of the magazine published a photograph of a malnourished baby held by a woman.

However, the image was actually taken on May 6, 2009, in the No Fire Zone in Sri Lanka, a territory declared as a safe area for civilians some months before the conclusion of the Sri Lankan army’s assault on the LTTE. The image was published in the US State Department’s Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflicts in Sri Lanka.

“While the conflict lasted intermittently for 25 years, this report focuses on incidents that occurred from January 2009, when fighting intensified, through the end of May 2009, when Sri Lankan government forces defeated the LTTE,” the report says.

Outlook magazine however, on its cover used a cropped portion of the image with the caption at the bottom: “A 3-month-old infant at a camp in Attapady before he passed away.”

Outlook responded to The News Minute's queries and said that it's story on malnutrition among tribals had made a great impact and that this was the first time the issue was brought to its notice. The Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Krishna Prasad said: 

“The cover picture was supplied by K.A. Ramu, a tribal associated with an NGO, who took our reporter around. All the pictures accompanying the case studies were shot by a photographer commissioned by Outlook.

"The Outlook story created a storm in 2013 and the CM held a press conference where no questions were raised about the picture, and where Outlook's role came in for praise and acclaim. The story dealt with a small tribal pocket of Kerala not the entire state.

"This story was a serious piece of journalism intended at drawing national attention to the issue of malnutrition. This report by Outlook fetched it the World Media Summit award in 2015.

"This is the first time this issue has been brought to our notice. It is unfortunate that a serious issue such as tribal malnutrition, which should occupy the attention of our political parties, has become a political football in an election season.

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