FACT CHECK: Does This Footage Show Shirtless Sri Lankan Officials Being Questioned By The Public?

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

A video shared on Facebook purportedly shows shirtless Sri Lankan officials being questioned and struck by members of the public.

Verdict: False

The men in the clip are prisoners that reportedly attacked a protest encampment, not government ministers, according to the Sri Lankan news outlet the Daily Mirror and a Sri Lankan journalist.

Fact Check:

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned from his position earlier in May amidst a major economic crisis, Reuters reported. Sri Lanka’s parliament voted against a charge of no-confidence against the prime minister May 17 despite widespread calls for his ousting, according to the Press Trust of India.

A video shared on Facebook claims several Sri Lankan government officials were captured and harassed by members of the public amid the unrest in the country. The video shows a group of shirtless men on their knees surrounded by a group of citizens who question and strike the kneeling men.

“All these naked people are ministers of Sri Lanka,” reads the post’s caption. “The Pakistani government has banned all news from Sri Lanka so that the people do not suffer the same fate.”

The video misidentifies the men kneeling on the ground. Sri Lanka-based journalist Dinesh De Alwis told India Today they were not government ministers but rather prisoners.

“In the video, the men said they were prisoners from Watareka Open Prison Camp,” said De Alwis. “They also said they were allowed to work on sites and on the way back to the prison from the site, a jailor took them to a protest site.”

There are no credible news reports suggesting the men in the video were government ministers. Sri Lankan-based newspaper Daily Mirror shared the same footage in a May 9 tweet that also identified the men as prisoners, not government officials.

It was reported that prisoners were bought today (10) to attack the protesters at #GotaGoGama.” (RELATED: Does This Image Show Fatalities From Recent Protests In Myanmar?)

“Gota Go Gama” is a protest encampment in Sri Lanka’s capital formed by people opposed to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s rule, according to ThePrint. Supporters of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party, which is the country’s ruling party, reportedly attacked the encampment May 9, injuring at least 23, RepublicWorld reported.

Check Your Fact recently debunked a false Time Magazine cover that referred to Gotabaya Rajapaksa as “The World’s Worst President.”

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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