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AFP fact-check articles of the week

March 22, 2019

AFP’s fact-check service debunks misinformation spread online. Here is a selection from around the world published on our blog this week:

1. Christchurch terror

Last week’s mosque shootings in New Zealand prompted a deluge of misinformation. A 2013 video of an attack on a Coptic church in Egypt was recirculated alongside claims it showed a church being attacked in New Zealand after an Australian white supremacist killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques. And misleading photos and video — viewed more than a million times — surfaced, falsely claiming that 350 people in New Zealand had “accepted” Islam after the deadly attacks on two mosques there.

2. Indian elections

Ahead of the Indian elections in April and May this year, a post appeared on Facebook, claiming to show that a member of India’s Congress party had said that the country will be ruled by Muslims. But the photograph actually showed a US-based Imam, Karim Abu Zaid, giving a lecture in 2014 on whether Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women. A video of the lecture revealed he made no reference to India or the Congress party.

3. Syria fighters

A Reuters photo of Shiite militia fighters in Syria has been misrepresented in multiple social media posts, which claim it shows an Indian student posing with Islamic State group fighters. The posts falsely said the photo included Najeeb Ahmed, a student from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi who has been missing since October 2016. But the photo was actually taken in March 2015 — seven months before Ahmed went missing.

4. Kenyan drought

Old images often resurface around major news events, adding to the confusion. Last week, reports that two people had died of starvation due to a drought in Kenya’s Turkana County sparked an outpouring of debate online. Various images showing men, women and children in dreadful situations were shared alongside posts castigating the government for allowing its people to die from hunger. But while reporters on the ground have indeed been documenting cases of desperate hunger in Kenya’s northwest, some of the most widely-shared images being used in social media posts about the drought are in fact years old or were taken in other countries.

5. Cyclone Idai

After Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe and Mozambique, killing more than 300 people, a photo began circulating on social media that users said showed a group of schoolchildren being left to find their own way to safety without help. In fact, the photo was taken by an AFP photographer who confirmed Zimbabwean soldiers were there helping the children, but had asked not to be photographed. The photo was taken in Chimanimani, a district on the Mozambique border which has been badly hit by one of Africa’s worst storms in decades.

1. http://u.afp.com/NZchurch

2. http://u.afp.com/INphoto

3. http://u.afp.com/INIsis

4. http://u.afp.com/turkanadrought

5. http://u.afp.com/idai

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.