The trend of disinformation across the Ethiopian media landscape

Incidents prompt disinformation

Controversial and false information circulation across the Ethiopian social media landscape follows the events that occurred in the country. Events prompt and provoke false information dissemination.

Most of the false claims that appeared and were debunked by HaqCheck were related to events.

The trend of disinformation across the Ethiopian social and mainstream media landscape increases when incidents related to political and socioeconomic issues happen.

Many false claims, videos, images, and controversies pop up the social media landscapes as soon as incidents are reported. Disinformation dissemination campaigns would be observed.

Below are incidents that occurred and provoked false information circulation during the month of February.

Drought in Oromia and Somali regional states

The Oromia and Somali regional states were hit by a severe drought that had been consecutively happening throughout the last five years.

Particularly the Borana Zone of Oromia was highly affected by drought. The drought exposed eight hundred thousand of residents in the zone to immediate food assistance.

The issue was a major issue of reporting and online discussion. Many social media posts and claims appeared sharing images, videos, and news reports.

The controversy within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

The controversy and schism within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church arose after Abune Sawiros, Archbishop of South West Shoa, along with two archbishops ordained and appointed 26 bishops on Jan 22, 2023, without the recognition of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Furthermore, the splinter bishops, citing discriminations within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church against the Oromos and Afaan Oromo ad other languages, announced the establishment of ‘The Synod of Oromia and Ethiopian Nations and Nationalities’.

The Church condemned and excommunicated the bishops.

Consequently, conflict and violence emerged shortly afterward. People were killed and injured due to the conflict.

Later on, the breakaway bishops and the Church signed an agreement on Feb 15, 2023, to settle the problem.

Summary of the debunked claims during the month

Below are the false claims that appeared and were debunked in the month of February.

Eritrean troops were still in Tigray

A Facebook post emerged on Feb 3, 2023, sharing an image with a claim that Eritrean soldiers had not fully withdrawn and were still in northeastern parts of Tigray.

The post used an old image previously published in 2021.

Celebration over the appointment of new bishops in Oromia

A Facebook page shared three images on Jan 27, 2023, claiming that residents of many towns in the Oromia region were celebrating the appointment of new bishops.

The images were taken from a YouTube video published in February 2020.

A church destroyed in Tigray during the war

On Feb 6, 2023, a Facebook post shared an image claiming that the picture shows a church destroyed in Tigray during the war between the Ethiopian government and TPLF forces.

The image really shows a church destroyed in the town of Adi Keyh, Eritrea during the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The picture was taken from a video published by Reuters in April 1999.

Weapons found at an Orthodox church in Shashemene

A claim appeared on Facebook sharing an image that smuggled weapons were found inside the premises of an Orthodox Church in Shashemene.

The same image was previously shared on Facebook on Mar 15, 2021, with a description that the Ethiopian Federal Police seized illicit weapons and ammunition in the Sidama regional state.

Smuggled weapons discovered at Abune Abraham’s house

A Twitter post shared three images with a claim that illegal rifles and ammunition were discovered in the house of Abune Abraham, Archbishop of Bahir Dar and head of the Patriarchate Office of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The post claimed that police retrieved five Kalashnikov rifles with 235 bullets during a search.

The first image was published on a website that advertises luxury hotels in Addis Ababa. The second picture was published by a news site on September 30, 2020, in a report that India signed a deal with Russia to procure 770,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

Illicit weapons uncovered at the house of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church leader in Jimma

A Facebook page with over 290 thousand followers shared three images claiming that illegal weapons were found at the house of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church leader in Jimma. The first image shows rifles, the second ammunition, and the third is a photo of a person.

However, the images were taken from old publications. The first picture which shows rifles was published on Oct 30, 2019, by the BBC Afaan Oromo along with a news story that the Ethiopian Customs Commision seized illicit weapons.

The second image which shows ammunition was taken from a news article published on Oct 7, 2021, by a local media outlet. The news states that illegal weapons were retrieved in the Addis Ketema district of Addis Ababa.


Haqcheck urges social media users to be skeptical of potentially misleading and fraudulent posts. They should look for additional sources of information before reacting to claims and posts.

We advise public institutions and other concerned entities to give information on a timely basis and clarifications. They should act before damages occur.

Social media content creators are recommended to be responsible and avoid disseminating false and misleading information.

The realization of access to information is the key to combatting disinformation. The lack of information prompts disinformation circulation at a great scale. Government and other organizations work to secure the right of citizens and the media to get access to information.

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