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.”


Ministers discuss winning media war in fight for Yemen’s legitimacy

Media ministers speak during a meeting in Jeddah on Saturday. AN photo by Ghazi Mahdi
Updated 24 June 2018
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Ministers discuss winning media war in fight for Yemen’s legitimacy

  • More than 13,000 journalists were kidnapped by the Houthis and we are demanding the international community seek their release
  • The coalition has managed to restore and liberate more than 85 percent of the Yemeni territory

JEDDAH: Media ministers for member states of the coalition for supporting legitimacy in Yemen held their fourth meeting on Saturday to discuss the ways of coordinating efforts and providing media support for coalition countries.

Saudi Minister of Information Awwad Al-Awwad said: “Houthi militias are one of the tools of Iran to threaten the stability of the region, and their ambitions have not stopped at attacking Yemenis and seizing their lands, but they exceeded that to threaten the security of Saudi Arabia by launching more than 152 ballistic missiles intercepted by our air defense forces and prevented from reaching their targets.”
He added: “The coalition has managed to restore and liberate more than 85 percent of the Yemeni territory with its full commitment to the rules of engagement and the protection of civilians and support of the Yemeni people and its legitimate government in resisting the enemy.”
Al-Awwad pointed out that the coalition’s support has not been limited to military operations, but has extended to other economic, security, relief and service aspects, infrastructure development projects, paving roads, rehabilitating ports and increasing their capacity.
Al-Awwad told Arab News that the meeting highlighted the blatant interference of Iran in the region, especially in Yemen, through its support for the Houthi militias.
“Some news agencies transmit news that may not be authenticated,” he said. “We want to tell them that there are reliable sources… that can be consulted. Therefore, news agencies were told to coordinate and publication shall be consolidated.”
He continued: “You are aware of what media stations hostile to the coalition countries and the legitimate government in Yemen are doing to falsify, deceive, fabricate stories, propagate rumors, broadcast distorted information, influence minds and emotions, and downgrade Yemeni army and coalition force success in diplomatic and various fields.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani said: “The Houthis will not go to peace until their military stalemate is broken and we have no choice but to cut (off) Iran’s arm in Yemen.
“More than 13,000 journalists were kidnapped by the Houthis and we are demanding the international community seek their release.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Additional Secretary Shafqat Jaleel said: “Pakistan calls for unconditional restoration of the legitimate government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and withdrawal of rebel forces from the territories seized by them, including the capital Sanaa.
“Pakistan contributed $1 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen last year and welcomes the Saudi initiative of providing relief to war victims in Yemen. Pakistan supports all efforts for peace in Yemen and calls for a political settlement, which can ensure lasting peace in the country,” he added.
Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Jaber, chairman of the National Media Council of the UAE, said: “The restoration of the legitimate government … enhances the chances of reaching a peaceful solution and puts pressure on the Houthi militias to sit at the negotiating table and break the deadlock in the political process.”
Bahraini Information Minister Ali bin Mohammed Al-Rumaihi stressed that “the security and stability of our Arab region, our identity, our unity and the sovereignty of our country, impose on all our media moral, professional and national responsibilities as a basic weapon and a strategic partner with our armed forces in the face of extremist terrorist organizations and blatant external interference.”
The conference was represented by media ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Sudan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti, Malaysia, Senegal, Yemen and Pakistan.