January 31, 2022

From Reuters’ misleading report to false images of the war: Weekly summary

HAQCHECKReports

This summary covers the major misinformative and controversial issues in the fourth week of January.

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By HaqCheck

HaqCheck is an Ethiopia based fact-checking project that verifies media content from social to the mainstream. We fact-check in English and four local languages, widely spoken in the Horn of Africa.

From Reuters’ misleading report to false images of the war: Weekly summary

False images of Somali and Oromia drought 

A new trend of misinformation is emerging on social media. The trend is sharing old and false images mingled with new images. Recently, there had been false images circulating on social media claiming that they show the ongoing drought in Somali and Oromia Regional States.

There have been many reports that the regional states of Oromia and Somalia are hit by severe drought. Addis Standard recently reported that many woredas in East Showa and Hararghe Zones of Oromia were affected by drought. Furthermore, 6,398 children, 9,078 women, and 2,226 elderly people have faced severe health problems associated with malnutrition due to a drought in the Borana zone of Oromia regional state.  The drought killed 7,540 cattle and some 13,641 cattle are moving around with the assistance of humans because the drought has weakened them. Many people and cattle have also suffered from drought in the Bale zone, Oromia.

Reports regarding the severe drought in the Somali region have also been coming out. According to a report, the drought which affected many woredas has killed thousands of livestock.

Despite the facts,, many old and false images were tracked circulating on social media platforms with claims of the ongoing drought in Oromia and Somali Regional  States.

Here are some of the posts that shared old images claiming to show the drought in Somali and Oromia Regional States.

link to the original image.

The above post shared an old image claiming that a drought in the Bale Zone of Oromia is looming and people are starving due to the emerging drought. But the image is taken from a report published in 2018.

link to the original image.

This post claimed that drought has occurred in Oromia and Somali regions. However, the first picture of the four images in the post is old and was taken from a report regarding drought in Somalia and Kenya.

link to the original image.

This  Facebook post also claimed that drought occurred in the Somali regional state. It shared three images in support of the claim. But, the first image was taken and cropped from an image in a report published in 2019.

Reuters’ misleading state of emergency report

Reuters, on Jan 26, reported that Ethiopia's cabinet approved the lifting of the ongoing state of emergency. The media outlet published a news article titled, “Ethiopia's cabinet approves lifting of the state of emergency.”

On Jan 26, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers passed a proposal of ending the state of emergency declared in November last year to be submitted to the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) for approval. Following the statement, Reuters came out with a news article that Ethiopia's cabinet of ministers lifted the state of emergency.

It is true that the Council of Ministers approved a proposal to end the state of emergency. But the cabinet has no legal mandate to lift it by a decision without the approval of the HPR. Hence, the cabinet sends the proposal to the HPR for ratification.

The sub-article two of article 11 of the proclamation of the state of emergency declared on Nov 2, 2021, states that the HPR can lift the state of emergency ahead of its expiration.

Therefore, HaqCheck fact-checked the claim and found it MISLEADING.

False images of alleged fresh skirmishes between Tigray and Afar forces

There were also false images on social media, particularly Facebook, supposed to be supporting claims of the fresh fighting between TPLF forces and Afar regional armed forces.

Facebook post was shared more than 50 times since it was published on January 25, 2022, on a page with more than 62,560 followers, which mostly features pro-Afar content. The post generated 1,200 reactions. A picture attached in the post shows a bulk of ammunition. Written in Amharic, the caption reported that Afar troops recently seized firearms from Tigrayan forces. 

“The Afar are receiving the weapons the Junta is handing over,” reads part of the caption. Junta refers to the Tigrayan forces, while Afar is a neighboring region, which allies with the federal government against Tigrayan troops.

 

However, HaqCheck confirmed that the image shows weapons recovered by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in August 2014. Even though the image shows ammunition, it is old and unrelated to the recent conflict in northern Ethiopia. Therefore, HaqCheck rated the post-FALSE. 

Recommendations

HaqCheck recommends international media outlets be careful and accurate while reporting. They should also offer readers a rational and professional explanation of the subject under discussion rather than leaving readers in the dark. They should abstain from misinforming audiences by making misleading and inaccurate headlines of news articles. They should avoid ambiguity.

We observed social media influencers and content creators sharing false images mixed up with new pictures. This makes it hard for users to identify the false from the true images. Using false images also undermines the truth on the ground. Thus, they should be responsible and abstain from sharing false and unauthenticated images and information.

Social media users should question the authenticity of the information before they read and share it with others.  They should be conscious of the origin and intention of unverified information posted on social media platforms and spot out trustable pages and sources to grasp the crux of the issue.

As we always do, we recommend the government provide sufficient and up-to-date information to the public and to the media. Disinformation and information disorder intensifies during times of shortage of information.