A tweet by the Ethiopian Online News outlet, Addis Standard – which has over 151,000 followers on facebook and over 180,000 followers on twitter – shared on its website a story with the headline “NEWS: OPPOSITION PARTY OROMO FEDERALIST CONGRESS SAYS IT WILL NOT TAKE PART IN COMING ELECTIONS UNDER EXISTING CONDITIONS” also sharing the story on its facebook and twitter accounts. The page supported the above claim using a communique sent by the party in Afaan Oromo and Amharic. However, HaqCheck has interrogated the article and evidence provided by the news outlet and rated it as MISLEADING Headline.
The Oromo Federalist Congress – a party including prominent figures from the Oromia region such as Professor Merara Gudina (PHD) (Chairperson of the party), Bekele Gerba (First Vice-chairperson) and Jawar Mohammed (a prominent member in the party – is one of the strong parties that are expected to partake in the upcoming elections. It is also true that high ranking members of the OFC were arrested and currently face strong charges of terrorism, incitement of violence, telecom fraud and illegal possession of firearms. Jawar Mohammed faces all four charges while the vice-chairperson of the party Bekele Gerba faces all charges except the telecom fraud charge by the Attorney General. Recently, Bekele Gerba and Jawar Mohammed refused to appear at their previous court date claiming the current security circumstances of the country, requesting an Ad-Hoc bench near their detention center. It is also true that the OFC released a statement “it would be extremely hard” for it to partake in the upcoming elections because most of its leaders and members from the Federal to the Kebele levels are imprisoned and its offices apart from the Headquarters remain closed.
Image 1: The statement by the OFC in Amharic
Granted, the party has in fact come out with a statement demanding three things (namely: the release of the leadership and members of the OFC in detention, the reopening of the offices of the OFC and the creation of an environment conducive for campaigning and other electoral tasks). Addis Standard has also captured the above statement of the OFC well in the body of the article. However, despite warnings that the party may not partake in the current elections under the current circumstances at no place in the above letter or its Afaan Oromo equivalent does the party definitively say that it will not partake in the upcoming elections, despite the message of the Headline used by Addis Standard in the article. While it may be argued that as long as the body clarifies the headline properly, a study by Columbia University shows that about 60 percent of twitter users share posts without reading the headline, which demonstrates the capacity of such headlines misleading the public (independent of the body of the article).
Therefore, HaqCheck has interrogated the headline (excluding the body) and rendered the verdict MISLEADING because the party did not confer the message in the headline at any point in the communique it posted on its social media platforms.
Fact Checked by: Abdulahi Abdulkadir
Edited by: Bruck Negash Teame
The following article is part of HaqCheck, Addis Zeybe’s multilingual fact checking running in five languages (Affan Oromo, Amharic, Somali, Tigrinya and English)
The following article was published as part of Addis Zeybe’s multilingual fact checking initiative. As the reconstruction of our website continues, Addis Zeybe would like its readers to note that it will be publishing fact checking articles on a permanent basis in five languages (Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Somali, Tigrinya and English. Addis Zeye will also be publishing monthly pandemic impact assessment and human rights reports in the coming months.