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Fact Check

AFP
September 2, 2019

Fact-check: David Beckham wearing 'Free West Papua' T-shirt?

Fact Check

AFP
Mon, Sep 02, 2019

A blog post containing a photo of English footballer David Beckham wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Free West Papua” has been shared thousands of times in multiple posts on Facebook alongside a claim it shows Beckham visiting a town in Indonesia’s Papua region. The claim is false, the photo has been doctored from a photo of Beckham wearing a plain white T-shirt during a visit to neighbouring Papua New Guinea in 2015.

This February 18, 2016, blog post contains the doctored photo of Beckham posing with a child.

Below is a screenshot of the blog post:

The blog post has been shared more than 7,481 times, according to data from social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle.

In the photo above, Beckham can be seen wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with a map of Indonesia’s Papua region alongside text which states: “FREE WEST PAPUA”.

Papua region, in the easternmost part of Indonesia, comprises Papua and West Papua provinces. The official websites of the two provinces can be seen here and here, respectively.

The blog’s Indonesian headline translates to English as: “David Beckham Secretly Visits Wamena-Papua”.

The photo caption translates to English as: “English footballer David Beckham evidently paid a visit to a hinterland of Wamena-Papua secretly. This worldwide famous football player handed over humanitarian aid after learning about a tragedy of children mortality in 2015. During his visit, people were surprised with the T-shirt that reads ‘Free West Papua’ David Beckham was wearing.”

Papua region is home to one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies which seeks independence from Indonesia, as this AFP article explains.

Wamena is the capital of Jayawijaya district in Papua province. This is the district’s official website.

The misleading blog post was shared here, here, here and here on Facebook in mid-August 2019 with a similar claim.

The claim is false; the image in the blog post has been doctored from a photo of Beckham wearing a plain white T-shirt. It was taken in the neighbouring country of Papua New Guinea.

A reverse image search on Google found this February 14, 2015, post on the UNICEF website which contains the original photo of Beckham posing with the same child as seen in the misleading blog post.

Below is a screenshot of the photo on UNICEF's website:

The UNICEF photo caption states: "UNICEF is working with David Beckham’s 7 Fund to make sure that children in Papua New Guinea are kept safe from malnutrition."

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the doctored image in the misleading blog post (L) and the UNICEF photo (R): 

The UNICEF article states Beckham travelled to Papua New Guinea as part of a BBC programme entitled 'David Beckham: For the Love of the Game'.

The programme's description on the BBC's website states: "The first three games see David play in some of the countries for which he is a Unicef ambassador: tribes in the jungles of Papua New Guinea; children from an earthquake-damaged school in Nepal and footballers from three African countries at a refugee camp in the middle of the desert near Djibouti."