Lifting the veil on fake news about Saudi TV ‘censoring’ Merkel’s hair

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A fake image circulated online showed German Chancellor Angela Merkel standing next to King Salman, with her hair pixelated (left). The real image is on the right. (Facebook)
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The Saudi Embassy in the US stepped in to correct reports that Saudi TV blurred out an image of Michelle Obama on a state visit with former President Barack Obama (left). (YouTube/AP Photo)
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King Salman holds talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Riyadh on April 6, 2017. (SPA)
Updated 09 May 2017
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Lifting the veil on fake news about Saudi TV ‘censoring’ Merkel’s hair

JEDDAH: The caption to a picture showing Angela Merkel with her hair pixelated said it was all a joke.
But some social-media users took the idea that Saudi television networks had censored images of the unveiled German chancellor very seriously.
Indeed, the erroneous claim soon became the latest fake news story to spread like wildfire online.
Merkel’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, during which she met King Salman and other officials, was covered widely by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and local TV stations.
None censored the image of her uncovered hair — but that didn’t stop the fake news machine going into overdrive.
The image appeared to originate from a Facebook page for “Khase News.” It showed Merkel standing next to King Salman, with her hair pixelated, and the caption “just for fun.”
But that didn’t stop numerous people on social media falsely drawing the conclusion that the image was a real screengrab from TV.
Sarah Abdallah, who tweets @sahouraxo, wrote on May 4 that authorities had apparently “censored the German chancellor’s hair when she appeared today on Saudi TV.”
Her message attracted more than 33,000 retweets, prompting an exasperated response from those who saw through it.
“It literally says it’s a joke on the pick you posted,” wrote Ahmad Al-Shathry, who tweets @Abunass3r, in response to Sarah Abdallah. “9000+ (!) people didn’t bother with a Google search. Sigh.”
State media did in fact have no issue about showing pictures of Merkel with her hair uncovered, with SPA, for example, publishing several images of the chancellor online.
But this is not the first example of fake news reports about “censorship” of images of female visitors to Saudi Arabia who chose not to wear a veil.
In January 2015, for example, numerous media outlets reported that Saudi TV stations had blurred the image of Michelle Obama on a state visit to Saudi Arabia.
But as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, such reports were “erroneous”. Even the Saudi Embassy in the US stepped in, apparently correcting news outlets that got it wrong.
“Too bad Bloomberg did not have someone monitor Saudi TV as other news outlets did,” the embassy said on Twitter at the time.
Not every visit by a female dignitary who does not cover her hair attracts fake news stories.
But many mainstream news outlets take pains to draw attention to the question of whether visitors choose to cover their hair, often at the expense of the political questions under debate during state visits.
The recent visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May to Saudi Arabia, for example, attracted numerous headlines informing readers that she did not arrive wearing a headscarf.
But such issues are often not even raised before official visits.
Holger G. Ziegeler, the German consul general based in Jeddah, said this was the case with Merkel’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week.
“Both the preparations for the visit as well as the visit of the German Federal Chancellor in Jeddah itself were coined by the spirit of close cooperation and mutual respect with a high level of professionalism,” he told Arab News. “Accordingly, the topic of clothing or attire was never raised.”


Myanmar evicts family of officer who testified on entrapment

Updated 21 April 2018
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Myanmar evicts family of officer who testified on entrapment

  • Two reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained since December 12 on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act.
  • Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing told a court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.

Yangon: Myanmar police on Saturday evicted the family of a police officer who testified that he and others had been ordered to entrap two reporters working for the Reuters news agency who are facing charges that could get them up to 14 years in prison, the officer’s wife said.
The reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained since Dec. 12 on charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The two helped cover the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a brutal counterinsurgency operation last year drove about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.
Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing told a court Friday that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.
On Saturday, Moe Yan Naing’s wife, Daw Tuu, said she and her daughter were ordered to move out of their police housing in the capital, Naypyitaw.
“A police officer called us this morning and said we have to move out of the housing immediately and that’s the order from the superior,” Daw Tuu said, sobbing.
Moe Yan Naing said he and other colleagues who had been interviewed earlier by Wa Lone about their activities in Rakhine had been interrogated under the direction of Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko of the 8th Security Police Battalion.
The police department’s action against Moe Yan Naing’s family caused an outcry in Myanmar.
“This is an outrageous move,” said Robert Sann Aung, a human rights lawyer. “This is to give an example to other police in the country to keep silent from telling the truth.”
The court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January. The defendants’ lawyers have asked the court to drop the case against the pair, saying prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to support the case, but the judge denied the motion.