Paper Says Sorry for ‘Misleading’ Picture of Suu Kyi With Muslim Leaders

By The Irrawaddy 22 April 2015

RANGOON — A local newspaper has apologized after posting a picture of Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi online that caused a religious furor among the country’s netizens.

The photo, posted on the Facebook page of The Voice Weekly on Tuesday, appeared to depict Suu Kyi paying respect to Christian and Muslim leaders in the traditional Buddhist style, causing controversy among some readers who at first questioned the propriety of the gesture.

One Facebook commenter wrote: “Is it a Muslim man to whom Aunty Suu is paying respect? We see it clearly, friends!”

The picture was taken at an event commemorating the one-year anniversary of Burmese democracy activist Win Tin’s death. Closer scrutiny, however, revealed that in fact Suu Kyi was greeting Buddhist monks who were sitting a few feet away from the Christian and Muslim leaders in the same row.

The revelation prompted other commenters to question the newspaper’s intentions in publishing the picture, with one user writing: “What’s the motivation behind The Voice? My hat’s off to you for causing problems! I can’t help wondering why the picture was taken as if Suu Kyi was paying respect to a Muslim religious leader. In fact she is paying her respects to the Buddhist monks. Check the pics!”

Soon after the picture and attendant criticism went viral, the editor of the newspaper posted a message, saying: “The paper apologizes to the relevant persons for the controversial and misleading picture due to the negligence of the paper’s online editorial team.”

The image has since been removed from The Voice’s Facebook page.

It is not the first time that Suu Kyi, chairwoman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, has been unwittingly embroiled in a religious controversy.

In June 2014, a Photoshopped image of the opposition leader wearing a hijab and being crowned as “Woman of the Week” went viral, with even the wife of presidential spokesman Ye Htut sharing the post.

Ye Htut later apologized on behalf of his wife.

The incidents are particularly delicate in Burma, where political reforms have been accompanied by a rise in anti-Islamic sentiment and violence that has at times been fueled by social media.