TIME magazine’s purported cover featuring the Sri Lankan president is not genuine, the magazine says

A purported image from a TIME magazine cover story calling Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa the ‘worst president in the world’ has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter after his crisis-ridden country saw weeks of protests anti-government. However, TIME magazine told AFP the image did not show a real cover story. AFP found no evidence in the magazine’s archives that the alleged story was ever published.

The alleged cover story was shared in this Facebook post published on April 11, 2023.

Text on the image says Rajapaksa is ‘the world’s worst president’ and describes him as a ‘war criminal’, ‘a racist’, ‘a fraudster’ and ‘a thief’. Notably, the text misspells his name.

The caption to the post reads: “They [TIME magazine] say so too”.

The image circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp as Sri Lanka suffered its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948, causing widespread misery for the island nation’s 22 million people, the report said. AFP.

Comments from some users have indicated that they believe the image shows an authentic TIME magazine cover.

One user wrote: “Now the whole world knows about the exploits of our president. Shame on you Rajapaksas for ruining this country.”

Another commented: “What a black spot on Sri Lanka. Mr. President, please leave without bringing more shame to Sri Lanka!

The same image was shared in several Facebook posts, including here and here. It was also widely shared on Twitter, including here, here, and here.

However, the magazine’s purported cover is not authentic.

False cover

A spokesperson for TIME magazine told AFP that the alleged cover story was not authentic, adding that the magazine had not published a cover on President Rajapaksa to date.

As of April 22, AFP had found no such cover story about President Rajapaksa published in this archive of TIME covers published in 2023.

The image in the misleading post features a purported barcode that yielded no results when scanned with a smartphone with a built-in QR code scanner.

AFP has already debunked other examples of fake TIME magazine covers here, here and here.