‘Closure’ of Ethiopian embassy
A series of posts on social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter, emerged this second week of August claiming that Ethiopia had shut down its embassy in Washington DC. The claims also stated that Ethiopia was evacuating its diplomatic staff from its embassies in Germany and in the US, with diplomats stationed there set to return back home.
The Ethiopian ambassador to the US, Fitsum Arega, responded by refuting the claims, explaining that the embassy is continuing to provide its regular service.
The allegation against Ethiopian Airlines
Another information disorder last week was the claim that Ethiopian Airlines is transporting firearms cargo to the country. Social media posts claimed on August 12, 2021, that firearms were unloaded at Bole International Airport.
Allegations of military equipment and soldier transportation by the airline have been circulating on social media for weeks. These claims were followed up with campaigns that called for the boycotting of the airline. Last week Ethiopian Airlines responded by denying the allegation of transporting soldiers and firearms.
However, the claims were retrieved this week and alleged the airline was transporting firearms into the country and heavy trucks were moving the weapons from the airport to conflict areas.
Controversy over the town of Nefas Meewcha
There had been claims and counterclaims regarding the TPLF’s advancement to Nefas Meewcha. Social media posts emerged claiming the town fell into the hands of TPLF forces. The posts claimed that the TPLF took control of the town and were advancing to Debre Tabor.
As the TPLF forces advance southward and make incursions into the towns of the Amhara regional state, armed conflicts are taking place across three regional states including Afar. TPLF forces recently took control of the historical town of Lalibela. Fighting has been intensified at bordering Amhara-Tigray areas. Nefas Meewcha is 132 kilometers southwest from Lalibela. Along with Nefas Meewcha, social media has reported TPLF won several battles on fronts including Woldia, Lalibela, Adi Goshu, May Tsebri, Gayent, and Tigray-Amhar-Afar adjacent areas.
(Map: conflict areas based on social media reports)
The TPLF regional forces also claimed that they took control of Woldia, the capital of the North Wollo zone of Amhara regional state. But the Ethiopian National Defense Forces said that TPLF forces haven’t seized the town and stated it is fighting them at Guba Lafto, which is 67 kilometers north of Woldia.
Air attack on TPLF Forces in Amhara Region
Another post also surfaced on social media claiming TPLF forces, which were hiding in a secret camp at the Geregera School in the Amhara region, were completely destroyed by the national air force’s operation. The post used a false image to support the claim.
HaqCheck investigated the image and confirmed that it doesn’t support the claim and rated it FALSE for using the picture. The image was taken from a post on 14 January 2020 and shows an explosion at a petrochemical plant in northeastern Spain, near Barcelona.
Addis Ababa-Bahir Dar Road Blockage by OLA
Another social media post that was fact-checked by HaqCheck was a claim that reported that the road which connects Addis Ababa with Bahir Dar was blocked by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The post, which appeared on social media on August 13, 2021, states that the OLA, headed by Kumsa Diriba – aka Jaal Marroo, has been warning this since last week.
HaqCheck looked into the images that were applied to support the claim and concluded that the pictures do not show the road was being blocked by OLA. Therefore, HaqCheck has rated the post as FALSE due to the usage of inaccurate images.
The images had first appeared in reports from different media outlets, that a landslide had blocked the road from Addis Ababa to Gojam.
HaqCheck recommends the public should look for information from credible and original sources. Social media users should look for official statements, updates, and clarifications from authorities on such controversial issues.
Media organizations and concerned authorities should provide the public with timely updates regarding the matters. Journalists and news outlets should look into both sides of a story during reporting.
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.