Qatar-backed news site falls for ‘Prince Harry to honeymoon in Jeddah’ prank

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 31 December 2017
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Qatar-backed news site falls for ‘Prince Harry to honeymoon in Jeddah’ prank

LONDON: Amid the media frenzy over the UK royal wedding, one Qatar-backed website has proven somewhat divorced from reality.
After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry in May, they will jet off to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia, where they will attend a monster truck rally in Jeddah and open a branch of Hooters in Riyadh.
That was, at least, the entirely fictional forecast reported by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, a well-known satirical site in the Middle East.
But Arabi 21 missed the joke — and reported it all as fact.
The news website on Saturday regurgitated the satirical claims that Saudi Arabia had paid $60 million to host the royal honeymoon — despite what it called an “austerity situation” in the Kingdom.
It repeated the Pan-Arabia Enquirer’s humorous claim that Prince Harry would open a branch of Hooters — the US restaurant chain famous for its scantily-clad waitresses — in Riyadh.
Several anti-Saudi, widely-followed Twitter accounts and news sites were also quick to retweet the story and comment negatively — all without bothering to verify its authenticity.
Arabi 21 apparently realized its mistake and unpublished the story. The website — one of several reportedly backed by Qatar as part of its “soft power” attempts — could not be reached for comment.
The founder of the Pan-Arabia Enquirer, who prefers to remain anonymous, was quick to poke fun at the site.
“We doff our hats to the fine people at Arabi 21 for picking up our entirely made up story about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle choosing to honeymoon in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News.
“In this age of fake news, when respected journalists are being widely dismissed as propagators of untruths, we’re thrilled to see a news organization throw caution to the wind and publish something without bothering to check the source material. Bravo!”
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer is a satire site — but the joke was lost on one Qatar-backed news website. (Screengrab)

It is not the first time a news outlet has fallen for the site’s satirical stories.
In 2014, The News International, one of the most established English newspapers in Pakistan, ran a report in which it was claimed that — at a time of heightened tension in the Gulf — Qatar had banned Saudis, Bahrainis and Emiratis from entering the London department store Harrods.
It based its story on an entirely fictional report by the Pan-Arabia Enquirer.
Another of the site’s jokes that left many people fooled included one from 2013 that stated the Dubai airline Emirates would introduce shisha lounges on board its planes. Even some members of Emirates cabin crew believed the story, according to media reports at the time.
Others fell for a spoof story about British model Katie Price, also known as Jordan, suing the country of Jordan over naming rights.
The Pan-Arabia Enquirer — often likened to “The Onion of the Middle East” — has a long history of poking fun at the region.
In 2013, it joked that a Saudi airline would introduce the religious police in aircraft cabins as “a free in-flight service.” The same year, it ran a satirical story about Qatar having “sensationally swooped in to win the hosting rights” for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A screenshot of the Arabi21 artical in Arabic.


Twitter suspends two accounts linked to 12 Russians indicted by Mueller

The accounts have been suspended for being connected to a network of accounts previously suspended for operating in violation of our rules. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 July 2018
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Twitter suspends two accounts linked to 12 Russians indicted by Mueller

  • The indictment alleges that from around June 2016 the conspirators released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents “using fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0.’.”
  • Friday’s indictment was the first by Mueller that directly charges the Russian government with meddling in the election

WASHINGTON: Social networking site Twitter Inc. on Saturday suspended two accounts linked to 12 Russian spies indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.
On Friday, a federal grand jury charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic computer networks in 2016 in the most detailed US accusation yet that Moscow meddled in the election to help Republican Donald Trump.
Twitter said on Saturday it had suspended the accounts @DCLeaks_ and @Guccifer_2 that were named in the indictment, which alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy involving sophisticated hacking and staged release of documents.
The indictment alleges that from around June 2016 the conspirators released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents “using fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0.’.”
In a statement on Saturday, a Twitter spokesman said: “The accounts have been suspended for being connected to a network of accounts previously suspended for operating in violation of our rules.”
Friday’s indictment was the first by Mueller that directly charges the Russian government with meddling in the election. The Kremlin denies it interfered.
Speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Philadelphia on Saturday, US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the indictments proved that the United States “will not tolerate interference with our democratic processes and that there will be consequences for foreign meddling.”