Firework being set off on bonfire night

Why was some media coverage of fireworks night misleading?

Disturbances during fireworks night in Scotland led to significant coverage in the media this week. 

There were a number of incidents where emergency services were injured as festivities turned into confrontations with police.

But reporting by the BBC and Edinburgh Evening News led to controversy, as pictures used to illustrate the events were called into question. 

Ferret Fact Service explains what happened. 

What happened on fireworks night? 

While many official and unofficial gatherings to celebrate fireworks night went off peacefully, a number of gatherings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee led to confrontations with police

The most significant was in the Niddrie area of Edinburgh, where groups began to gather in the late afternoon and fireworks were aimed at cars and buildings. Videos on social media showed fireworks thrown at riot police who arrived to disperse the crowd.

Police Scotland said around 50 young people within a larger gathering were responsible for much of the disorder.

There were also reports of fireworks being thrown during fighting between rival groups in the Barmulloch area of Glasgow. 

Eight police officers were injured during the incidents in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

How was the disorder reported? 

On Wednesday 8 November, the Edinburgh Evening News published its front page with the headline “Adults behind Niddrie Riot”, accompanied by a picture showing a masked man throwing a molotov cocktail. 

But the image used on the front page was not taken during the disturbance in Edinburgh’s Niddrie area. It was in fact a stock image, available from Shutterstock, which was taken of protests in Ukraine in 2014. 

The Edinburgh Evening News has now made an apology for using a misleading image. 

How can you tell the image isn’t correct?

Using openly available tools including Google image search and photo search engine, TinEye, Ferret Fact Service was able to identify the origin of the image. It was taken by photographer Andria Gorb (also spelled ‘Andrey’ and ‘Andrii’)and shows protestors clashing with police in Kyiv’s government quarter. It appears to have been taken in 2014 during the country’s Maidan revolution

Various other photos by the same photographer show the person pictured throwing the projectile. 

There are several other clues to the authenticity of the image used by Edinburgh Evening News. The picture’s location looks very different to the area where the disorder took place in Niddrie. Videos of the disorder do not show a similar looking individual, nor the red hats of the crowd watching behind.

The markings on the street are also not reminiscent of Scottish roads, and the pedestrian crossing sign is not a normal UK road sign

Before bonfire night this year, there was another example of a misattributed photograph in a BBC article about the potential for disorder. The article, published on 4 November 2023 initially used a picture of firefighters tackling a blaze from a bonfire in Corcrain, Belfast celebrating the Ulster Protestant Eleventh Night in 2021, but it was attributed as a bonfire in Cumbernauld. 

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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Photo credit: iStock/pxel66

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