The trend of disinformation often intensifies when the conflict between the belligerents escalates. Recently, the armed conflict has been spilling over to adjacent areas of the South Wollo and other territories of the Amhara Regional State. Information disorder has aggravated during the week along with the escalation of the conflict.
Here are some of the social media claims that were part of the information disorder last week.
Cannonade in Dessie
There was a claim on social media that the Ethiopian government was using city residents as human shields by firing artillery towards enemy forces from cannons planted at the center of the city. A video was published on October 28, 2021. The Video’s Amharic description reads, “Abiy Ahmed and Daniel Kibret cannonading in Wollo and Dessie using city residents as a shield with an intention of causing civilian massacre…”.
However, it is learned that the video does not prove the claim. It is neither from Ethiopia nor shows a recent incident in the country. The footage found shows a “Rehearsal for the victory parade 2016” in Novosibirsk, a city in Siberia, southern Russia, on May 9, 2016, dated even before the war began. The post was fact-checked and is rated as False by HaqCheck.
Weapons captured by OLA
Another viral post that was fact-checked by HaqCheck was a claim that Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), whom the government addresses as Shane, captured armaments originally belonging to the Ethiopian army.
The claim was confirmed false by HaqCheck’s interrogation of the image. The image was made up of two different pictures. The original image shows an Ural truck and a cannon. The image can be found in different Facebook posts, from August 6, 2021. Most of the images are posted by TPLF affiliated pages, along with other photos claiming to show captured weapons around Woldiya. However, the image in the post is ‘photoshopped’ from the original picture, by adding a photo of a group of OLA soldiers over the original picture.
The original image.
OLA advancing to Addis Ababa
A Facebook post emerged last week amid the escalation of the conflict and controversial reports by international media outlets. The post explains that following Kumsa Diriba's, a.k.a Jaal Marro, commander-in-chief of OLA, order to take control of Addis Ababa, the Oromo Liberation Army is advancing to besiege the city.
The post used a false image to support the claim. HaqCheck has confirmed that it is photoshopped, comprising two different pictures. The first image was posted on July 13, 2021, by a non-profit journalistic website platform genevasolutions.news with the title “UN rights body passes resolution on Ethiopia’s Tigray region.”
Kemissie residents celebrating the entrance of OLA troops to the town
Last week claims were made that TPLF and OLA troops entered the town of Kemise, capital of the Oromo Special Zone of Amhara regional state. Amid the situation, a Facebook page with more than 38,000 followers posted a 3:16 minute video on Oct 31, claiming to show the people of Kemisse celebrating the entrance of OLA that day. The post claimed the town was crowded with people who gathered to welcome the troops and celebrate their entrance.
However, the post was confirmed to be false by HaqCheck. The original video was posted on Facebook on October 23, 2018. We also analyzed the video clip and saw a possibility of the video to be taken back in 2018 when the government embraced reform and allowed armed resistance forces, such as the Oromo Liberation Front to enter the country.
Captured TPLF spies
A post appeared last week claiming that the two men in the images were arrested while spying and infiltrating by pretending to be disabled persons. The text in the post reads “They are members of the invading force [TPLF forces] who are arrested while spying and infiltrating by pretending to be disabled”.
The post was investigated by HaqCheck and confirmed to be false. The images were first shared on Facebook, by the official page of the Hadiya zone Government Communication Affairs Department, three hours prior to the claim. The image was shared on Nov 3 as news reporting an arrest of two people in the Hadiya zone, who were deceiving the public by pretending to be disabled.
Controversial reports by international news outlets
Last week many international news outlets such as CNN had published controversial and false reports regarding the ongoing armed conflict in Ethiopia. For instance, CNN published content with the headline “Ethiopian rebels edge closer to Addis Ababa, as fears grow over all-out war”. But another content published on the CNN website explains that one of the rebel groups claimed to be 15 miles from the capital, but eyewitnesses reported no sign of the fighters.
TPLF and OLA soldiers embracing one another
On November 5, 2021, a Facebook post claims the embracing armed men in the image below are soldiers of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that rebranded itself as Tigray Defense Forces (TDF).
However, HaqCheck looked into the image and confirmed that the picture in the post does not show OLA and TPLF soldiers hugging one another.
Therefore, HaqCheck rated the post as False due to the use of inaccurate images to prove the claim.
HaqCheck urges international news outlets to be responsible during reporting. They should be considerate of the sensitive situation in the country and the potential adverse impact such controversial reports would bring about.
We recommend social media users be conscious of the reports. This includes disinformation trends and media consumers should identify the right pages and sources to understand the intention and credibility of the message they are reading or sharing.
HaqCheck is a local multilingual fact-checking project based in Ethiopia, formed inside Addis Zeybe’s newsroom, now Inform Africa’s Counter Disinformation Project - a board-led Civil Society Organization (CSO) - dedicated to verifying media contents from social to the mainstream. HaqCheck works in collaboration with media outlets to monitor media contents in English and four local languages (Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Tigrigna, and Somali).
This report is produced with the support of UNESCO under the #CoronavirusFacts: Addressing the ‘Disinfodemic’ on COVID-19 in conflict-prone Environments that the UNESCO Addis Ababa Office is implementing in Ethiopia with financial support from the European Union (EU). The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO or the EU concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO or The European Union and do not commit these organizations in any way.