The month of September was characterized by higher false information dissemination trends related to the armed conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government.
Here are the trends of disinformation traced during the month.
All contents are related to the armed conflict
All the false claims debunked by HaqCheck during the month of September were related to the armed conflict in the northern parts of the country.
Unlike the previous month, there was no diversification regarding the content of the false posts. Non-conflict-related false claims appeared during the month of August. HaqCheck debunked social media posts that are related to famine and drought in the country.
However, during September, posts other than the armed conflict were not much observed.
Another trend observed during the month was that all the false claims debunked by HaqCheck were related specifically to the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government.
Three main issues dominating false content claims
HaqCheck observed that the overwhelming majority of the false claims debunked are of three issues; false images and videos about Ethiopian aerial strikes in Tigray/ TPLF forces, claims regarding alleged TPLF/ Ethiopian POW, and weapons allegedly seized or destroyed
For instance, a Facebook post appeared on Aug 31, 2022, claiming that the Ethiopian government conducted an aerial strike in Mekelle in the middle of the night using drones. It presented two images as proof. The post also alleged that Ayder Hospital was also bombarded during the drone attack. The post was shared close to one thousand times.
However, HaqCheck confirmed that the images don’t show the alleged recent aerial bombardment in Mekelle. The first image is from Syria and was taken on Oct 18, 2014. This image was published by the VOA.
Another post appeared on Twitter on Sep 13, 2022, tweeting an image claiming Ethiopian drones attacked Mekelle and that one key leader of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was executed. The tweet had been retweeted 703 times at the time this article was published.
However, HaqCheck confirmed that the image doesn’t show a recent drone attack during the ongoing war. The image is taken from a YouTube video titled, Netherlands Apache strike in Afghanistan. This video was uploaded on March 2, 2008.
Secondly, among the prominent disinformation social media publications are false claims regarding alleged TPLF or Ethiopian prisoners of war captured during the war.
A viral video was shared on Twitter on Sep 13, 2022, claiming that the footage shows Ethiopian prisoners of war surrendered to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces during the recently resumed fighting.
The video was shared close to 600 times on Twitter and was watched by over 37 thousand users on the same platform.
However, the video is confirmed not to show Ethiopian prisoners of war during the recently resumed fighting between the federal government and the TPLF forces.
The video was published on Facebook by the Voice of America Amharic on May 19, 2022, in a news report stating that TPLF announced to release of 4208 POWs belonging to the ENDF.
The third issue was regarding weapons allegedly seized or destroyed in the resumed fighting.
In this context a claim was made on Facebook on Sep 14, 2022, that two tanks were destroyed by an airstrike in Alamata which were heading to Kobo town.
However, HaqCheck found out that the image was first published over the Internet on Mar 6, 2022, on a website called suspilen.media which mostly publishes its articles in the Ukrainian language.
Elements of propaganda
HaqCheck observed that the false social media posts debunked during the month of September had elements of propaganda.
Some of them are presented below.
Ethiopian allied forces beheaded civilians in Tigray
On Oct 6, 2022, a Facebook post appeared sharing a graphic image that shows a beheaded face of a man with a claim that the person was slaughtered recently by the Ethiopian allied forces in a place called Tselimoy, in western Tigray after a confrontation between TPLF forces and the Ethiopian military a month ago.
The claim emerged following a battle between the Ethiopian federal government-led forces and TPLF forces in a place called Tselimoy was reported. After that, TPLF media outlets reported that Ethiopia and Amhara allied forces committed atrocities in the area.
However, the image doesn’t support the claim. The image is old and was taken from a post made on a Nigerian internet-based forum called Nairaland on Nov 23, 2020. Thus, the post is rated FALSE.
Ethiopia and Eritrea jointly launching attacks in Tigray via Adyabo
Social media posts backed by false images appeared after the TPLF announced that Ethiopia and Eritrea were jointly launching attacks against its positions. An image posted on Facebook on Sep 1, 2022, claimed that the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces jointly launched fresh attacks against the TPLF-led forces via northwestern Tigray, Adyabo.
However, Haqcheck looked into the image and confirmed that the image doesn’t prove the claim.
The image was first published on a website nine months ago on Dec 20, 2021, along with an article regarding the ongoing war in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia seized TPLF fighters’ addictive drugs at a battleground
On Oct 4, 2022, a Facebook post appeared sharing three images claiming that the pictures show addictive drugs recently seized from TPLF fighters in Kobo town of Amhara regional state. The post was viral and was shared over fifty times.
The images were also circulating and posted by other Facebook accounts.
However it is learned that two of the three images don’t support the claim.
The first image was cropped from an image shared on Facebook on Aug 8, 2022, by Fana Broadcasting Corporation with a description that drug dealers were captured in Gondar city.
The third image was published for the first time on Aug 18, 2020, on Facebook by a state media outlet with a news story that drug dealers who were smuggling addictive drugs were arrested in Addis Ababa.
Therefore, HaqCheck rated the post as Partly False.
HaqCheck recommends social media users to be skeptical and look for additional sources for controversial information they encounter. They should also look for fact-checks on the contested issues.
We recommend that the belligerents in the war should be responsible and avoid contaminating public life through disinformation campaigns. They should give factual updates on the war to reduce the impact of disinformation.
We urge the government and other bodies to ensure the right of citizens and the media to an open and secure access to information.