The week was relatively moderate in terms of disinformation and information disorder in general. We observed some posts of disinformation on social media. Most of the social media was filled with opinions and controversies not supported by any images, videos, or data worth fact-checking.
HaqCheck fact-checked two Facebook posts. Below is a summary of the information disorder during the week.
The release of Tamrat Negera
Last week was the time the state of emergency was lifted by the parliament. Immediately, social media activists and human rights groups began to call for the release of detainees who were detained during and in relation to the state of emergency.
Henceforth, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a statement urging the government to release people detained in relation to the state of emergency.
There was also an online hashtag campaign that demanded the release of Tamrat Negera and others.
Images of the journalist were trending on social media. On Feb 14, 2022, an image was shared on Twitter with a tweet that demanded the release of Tamrat Negera. The caption of the tweet reads, “If the Parliament lifted the state of emergency, I hope Tamrat Negera and others detained in relation to the state of emergency would be released.”
It is in this scenario the claim that Tamrat Negera is released from prison emerged on Facebook on Feb 15, 2022.
The caption of the Facebook post which shared a picture that shows Tamrat Negera and others reads, “We were told by our brother Yonas Weldeyes that Tamrat Negera is released. Extrajudicial detention has to be stopped.”
However, the image used in the post was first published on Facebook on Aug 7, 2021, by the name Tamrat Negera. Moreover, HaqCheck instantly reached out to Tamrat Negera’s family and confirmed that he was not released yet. Therefore, HaqCheck rated the post FALSE.
Looted artifacts from Tigray
There were also claims and many posts regarding alleged looted artifacts amid the war in Tigray.
There were reports that ancient heritages and artifacts appeared for sale on websites including eBay, raising suspicions that they could have been plundered from churches during the conflict in Tigray, according to The Independent, a London-based news outlet.
eBay removed from its platforms a number of rare Ethiopian items. But still, there are a number of cultural and religious Antiques on its platforms.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page with more than 13 thousand followers shared a post captioned, “looted artifacts from Tigray are being sold like this.” Under the caption is attached a link that leads to a news website called africanews.com.
The website posted a video on Feb 14, 2022, entitled “Tigray conflict: surge in ancient Ethiopian relics for sale.” By the time, the Facebook post had more than 200 reactions and was shared more than 90 times.
However, HaqCheck investigated the video and proved that it doesn’t show looted artifacts presented on e-commerce websites for sale at negligible price.
The video on the website claims, the latest victims of the year-long war in Tigray are the country’s rich artifacts, centuries-old manuscripts, scrolls which are offered on websites for a few hundred dollars and experts suspect that they have been plundered during the conflict.
HaqCheck found out that the video referred to by the Facebook post was first released on a YouTube channel on Nov 23, 2021, having more than 4.5 million subscribers entitled, “13 stolen artifacts returned after 150 years.” The video had over five thousand views.
Even though there are several claims that different artifacts are looted from Tigray during the war, neither the Facebook post nor the website video does not prove the claim.
Therefore, HaqCheck fact-checked the post and rendered it False.
HaqCheck recommends social media users question the credibility of the information they see before they take it for granted. They should try to cross-check information, images, videos, or claims before they share with their fellows.
Social media influencers and content creators should be responsible for their activities on their platforms. They should avoid, intentionally or unintentionally, creating and circulating false information.
Multinational corporations whose names are subject to such claims should give timely and sufficient information to prevent the dissemination of disinformation from reaching the point it can no longer be regressed.