The trend of disinformation on mainstream and social media during April is observed to decline from the previous month.
The content of the controversies and false information appeared to have evolved to include issues not related to the armed conflict between the TPLF and the federal government.
Some major controversies including the Gondar inter-religious violence, and the Wolkait mass grave emerged during the month.
The information disorder trend observed by HaqCheck during April is analyzed below.
Conflicting narratives: claims and counterclaims
The trend of conflicting narratives has dominated media landscapes. As incidents occur, claims and counterclaims immediately emerge. Two or more conflicting narratives come to dominate.
It was observed that this trend has grown with intentional disinformation and misleading content.
Gonder inter-religious violence
Immediately after the Gondar violence where tens of Muslims got killed at the end of the month was reported, controversial claims and counterclaims emerged. The regional government claimed that the conflict started as a quarrel among a few people. On the other side, a counterclaim that asserts unidentified armed units were intentionally present at the funeral ceremony and instantly attacked Muslim attendants indiscriminately.
Wolkait mass grave controversy
A controversy arose after a report that the University of Gondar found mass graves of ethnic Amharas, killed and buried by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) since 1982.
Counterclaims came out instantly alleging that the Amhara regional government was intending to clear the trace of dead bodies of ethnic Tigrayans killed by the government itself amid the decision by the UN to dispatch the independent investigative commission into human rights violations.
Misinformative and controversial contents
Misinformation content was seen at the beginning of the month. Most of these contents have had no disinformation intentions and some were false claims by interset groups.
State-affiliated media outlets reported that the American Congress decided to drop the draft bills of S3199 and HR6600.
However, later on, it was confirmed that there was no recent development of the bills after they were sent to the US Congress.
Another misinformation was observed regarding the 300 million dollar World Bank financial support to Ethiopia. Instantly, some reported that the support was a loan and some stated that it was a grant.
It was however checked that the fund was a grant to Ethiopia to help the country deal with the aftermath of conflict.
In the middle of the month, Balderas Party and others claimed that Addis Ababa City Administration decided to demolish the compounds of the Lion Pharmacy and Neon Addis found in Piassa and the lots are going to be given to business people affiliated with the government.
Later on, a news outlet came up with a report that the compounds will not be demolished and are going to be renovated without damaging them.
Image-supported false claims
For some years the information disorder on social media has been mainly dominated by image-backed claims and counterclaims. This trend has recently lessened.
However, the use of false images to support a claim has not ceased. Image-supported false claims appeared on social media in April.
HaqCheck fact-checked an image-backed Facebook post claiming that public places in the Lemi Kura sub-city, Addis Ababa were being grabbed and plowed.
The image was taken from an old online publication in May 2019 along with an article alleging that football fields were becoming farms in the city.
A Facebook claim with an image that the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) captured many soldiers belonging to the Ethiopian government was another image supported disinformation piece.
The conflict between OLA and the government had been one major source of online information disorder. Many images appeared supporting claims regarding the conflict between the belligerents.
Additionally, an image-backed post claimed that an OLF-Shane soldier was arrested by Fano in Shoa.
Recycling old information and claims
The trend of presenting old information and false claims were observed during April. Posts used old reports to convince or mislead people that the information is new.
On Apr 18, a claim presenting a screenshot of a tweet appeared alleging that Eritrea recently agreed to withdraw its troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray Regional State. The screenshot was taken from a tweet made by Reuters last year.
The information was old. Eritrea agreed to withdraw soldiers from Ethiopia a year ago and as reported by Reuters.
A Facebook post appeared on Apr 25, sharing a screenshot of a tweet that reads, “Rwandan President Paul Kagame called on the Biden administration and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to directly intervene in the disputed Tigray region in Ethiopia.”
The tweet from which the screenshot was captured was made last year falsely claiming that the President demanded the US and UNSC direct intervention in Ethiopia.
Social media content creators should be responsible and refrain from circulating false information.
We recommend the government offer the media and public timely and sufficient information and open access to information should be ensured.
Social media users are urged to be cautious and need to cross-check claims and reports.
Political parties, media outlets, government offices, and any other interest group entities should not provide false information.